Katherine Beck on the Square changes ownership


Mason and Mary Katherine – Margaux Pope. By

Margaux Pope
Oxford Stories

A boutique on the Oxford Square will soon be operated by a new owner. Katherine Beck Inc., located at 134 Courthouse Square, was a dream come true for Mary Katherine Perry Phillips, 28, but now she’s turning the store over to a recent UM graduate.

Phillips, a young entrepreneur from Goldsboro, North Carolina, dreamed of opening a boutique, and when she moved to Oxford, she knew the Square was the perfect place.

But she also knew she would eventually sell the store and did in February. In the spring of 2014, Phillips got married. Now, she and her husband hope to start a family.

“We decided last February that we wanted to move back to my hometown so we could begin thinking about starting a family,” she said. “We bought a house there last March, so I knew I had a little less than a year to find the store a perfect owner.”


Mary Katherine checking out customers- Margaux Pope

After about a dozen interviews, Mason Watkins – a recent UM graduate – expressed interest. Watkins said she feels prepared to take over after watching Phillips for several months.

“I know things will get hectic when I no longer have MK around,” Watkins said, “but I feel confident in my ability to own and run the store, especially since I’ve been working here for the past few months.”

Phillips graduated from UM in 2011 and decided to move away from Mississippi to gain experience before making her dreams come true. After graduation, she moved to San Antonio for a year and worked for a real estate agency, handling public relations.

After a year in San Antonio, Phillips moved to Nashville, worked for a boutique, and wanted a relaxed job so she could travel.

“I wanted to move out of Oxford for a little while after college so I could gain some experience before opening up my own business,” Phillips said. “Working for the boutique in Nashville gave me first-hand experience.”

When Phillips returned to Oxford, it took her four months to gather her ideas and merchandise for the store. Surprisingly, it only took her about a month until a spot on the Square was available for rent.

“At that point, I wasn’t picky about where the shop was, as long as it was on the Square,” she said. “I was ready to get KB up and running.”


Mary Katherine welcoming customers – Margaux Pope

Managing and owning any business is a challenge. Phillips believes Oxford competition is her greatest challenge.

“With a lot of other boutiques on the Square, you never want to have the same merchandise,” she said. “The market is so small, and learning how to manage a business at such a young age is not an easy task, but I felt prepared after my experience in Nashville. You want to make your store something different than the one customers last saw.”

Another challenge is finding staff. Most young women who work in the store are part-time college students, so trying to find a schedule for everyone can get pretty tricky.

Katherine Beck glistens through the store windows that are filled with home decor items, jewelry, and holiday gifts for every season. Every shelf is stocked with goodies that Phillips keeps updated. The store also carries items for bid day in the fall, football season, and the Double Decker spring festival.

Phillips recently transformed the store from Halloween to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her favorite time of year to decorate the store is rush week, because: “Seeing the smiles on girls’ faces on bid day makes me so happy,” she said. “We make baskets to send to girls throughout the week, which we stay up making hours after the store closes, which is stressful, but once you see how happy it makes the girls, it’s totally worth it.”

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