By Cristi McKee | Photo: Gypsy Rose Boutique
Maria Hurst may have been born in Detroit, Michigan, but she could swear that her soul was born in southern California, where she spent summer vacation every year for 15 years and where her love for coastal, beachy style evolved. When she moved to Tallahassee in 1994 to attend Florida State University, she never thought she would eventually own 2 apparel stores here in town.
After graduating from Florida State University, Hurst worked for 12 years with Chanel, Inc, and then with MAC Cosmetics, while also pursuing jewelry making with a family friend. Eventually, they decided to take their hobby to the next level and traveled along the Florida coast to create and sell their products at festivals and art shows. “We would mostly make our jewelry under tents at the festivals,” Hurst explains, “but eventually, we started getting a following and were continuously asked why we didn’t have a brick-and-mortar store.” As someone who worked in the fashion industry and knew the ins-and-outs of the apparel world, she was not certain that she wanted to have her own store as it seemed “very overwhelming.”
So, she continued with her jewelry business, and, when an opportunity to rent a space inside of FIT, a medical weight loss center here in town, turned up, Hurst took it. Forever grateful to Stephanie Jansen and Glenda Cato, owners of FIT, Hurst’s business began booming. When the need to move to a larger location became evident, Linda White at Coco’s Salon offered for rent a spot in her building and for Hurst, “it was amazing.” As the business grew, “I quickly found that women wanted apparel. At the end of the day, they wanted clothing.” Thus, the dream behind Gypsy Rose Boutique was born.
Hurst’s family, who came from Sicily by way of boat through Boston, has impacted the style that Gypsy Rose Boutique strives for greatly, saying, “I think that’s why I love the fancy, gold baroque type of style.” Her mother, too, who Hurst says was always “way ahead of her time” in fashion and “could give McQueen and Versace a run for their money,” inspired her love of style.
So, Hurst jumped in to find “all things Florida and coastal,” including apparel with vibrant colors, beachy prints, and breathable fabrics. At the heart of her vision for the apparel at her shop, “the point was to be affordable,” she says, “but to provide quality fabrics and quality brands.” When Bannerman Crossings approached her about opening a location, “it just made sense.” In 2015, the dream became a reality and Gypsy Rose Boutique opened.
The name of the boutique was inspired by the travel Hurst and her family does every weekend: “I’m somewhere different every weekend, and I like that, and in that way, I’m sort of like a gypsy.” Her mother’s name was Rosemarie Rose, and Hurst’s maiden name is Rose, which inspired the second half of the name. The shop sells high-quality and trendy apparel and jewelry, showcasing brands like Vintage Havana, Bobi Los Angeles, Chaser, and Stark X at both of their locations in Bannerman Crossings and Market Square.
While at the store, “this is our party, and everyone that comes into our store is a guest,” Hurst remarks. “I believe in southern hospitality, and that I should make everybody that walks through our doors feel like a million bucks.” Every day, Hurst looks forward to “meeting my customer’s needs,” she says, “if they have a special event or vacation coming up and they need an outfit, I think outside of the box to find them one. Getting a woman into apparel that makes her feel good and feel confident, I love seeing that. I look forward to that.”
Gypsy Rose Boutique hosts special events all year-round, including their Kentucky Derby-inspired weekend in May, their Fa-La-La Friday sale days every Friday in December, Studio 54 Friday on Black Friday, and their customer-requested Gypsy Soirees. On their Instagram account, you can keep up-to-date on their special events, newest arrivals, cute outfits, and accessories for sale.
Without her friends and family, Hurst does not know if her dream of Gypsy Rose would be a reality. She has “continuous gratitude” for her husband, John Hurst, for “my staff, my mom, the good people around me,” “Silky,”” and, most of all, for her customers.
Walking around the store, you might notice the presence of birdcages. Hurst explains: “the birdcages are pretty symbolic in the way that they are open, they have nothing inside them. The birds that were in them have been set free—free to love, free of spirit, free to roam. We just want everyone to feel like that when they walk into Gypsy Rose.”