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The enticing front entrance of Annette’s Touch of Class. Photo by Tiffany Eckhardt.

Annette’s Touch of Class is a blast-from-the-past spirited shopping experience located in tiny New Waverly, Texas, an hour north of Houston.  Annette’s, which spans 15,000 square feet, includes an original 1950s soda shop serving light lunches, malts, shakes, and a variety of sweets; a pool table and TV area (a.k.a. The Man Cave) for men to hang out in while their spouses shop; a kids’ play section to entertain the little ones; and enough unique merchandise, cool antiques, and vintage décor to keep shoppers engaged for hours.

“The entire family is entertained and leaves happy and eager to come back: It’s something that everyone needs to see and experience at least once,” says Megan Nichols, who owns the store with her mother Annette Milliff, the shop’s namesake.

At the end of her rope and desperate to maintain a relationship with her independent, free-spirited teenager, Milliff came up with an idea to sell jewelry together on the weekends at local festivals and fairs. The resulting road trip treks across Texas and long days working side-by-side created a turning point in their relationship.

Happy shoppers at Annette’s.

Just as their mother-daughter connection ignited, so did the business.  Eventually, Milliff left her successful career in the oil industry to open Annette’s. Nichols joined her mom at the store after graduating high school and earning her graphic design certificate.

“My parents have always enjoyed antiques, and I like the uniqueness of each item,” says Nichols.  “Mom basically buys what she likes, and it’s my job to create a look or purpose for it she will love.  So that’s exactly what we did in the store,” she explains.  “I love design in all its forms, so visually we are always changing around here!”

The store closes for a few days during the holiday season so it can transform into a winter wonderland for Christmas.  It’s just one of the many events they host every year to make Annette’s a place families want to come back to again and again.

“To think this successful company started with us sitting under a tent at a local festival making maybe $300 in a weekend—and sometimes nothing at all—is pretty crazy!” says Nichols.  “Most people only dream of stories like these, and we made it happen.”

Eclectic offerings inside the store.

In 2004, they utilized Nichols’ graphic design skills to create a T-shirt-and-baseball-cap line with a decidedly Western flair. Dubbed Gina after the nickname young Nichols used for Milliff when they were in public (“mom” didn’t get the attention “Gina” did in a crowd), the line complemented the hand-painted leather products they were importing at the time. Gina has since grown into a full wholesale brand that is sold in hundreds of retail stores across the nation, as well as at select trade shows, in-store, and online.

Other popular brands Annette’s carries include Big Star, Dear John, Double D, Creative Co-op, J Forks Designs, and hundreds more, though the Gina tees remain the most popular product. “The trends and styles might evolve, but the fundamentals stay the same with a mainstream look for the cowgirl in us all,” Nichols says.  “We’ve built our company around them; they are our signature item that everyone loves and can’t seem to get enough of!”

These days, Nichols—who is married with children of her own—has taken over the leadership at Annette’s so her mom can focus more time on her five grandchildren.  “It was a hard thing, letting go, but Meggie has come a long way, and she’s a savvy businesswoman,” says Milliff, who comes into the store a couple days a week to chat with customers and continues to manage the buying, finances, and shows.  “Megan is amazing with merchandising and creativity—she has a gift like that.  I couldn’t be a prouder parent.” 

Mother/daughter duo, Megan Nichols and Annette Milliff.

The mother-daughter team has made Annette’s a family affair, through and through. Of the store’s 20 employees, only five aren’t blood relatives (though the entire staff is considered a “chosen family”).  Milliff explains it this way, “For us, it’s not about what we can gain with our business, it’s more important to create a job for a family member,” she says.

Recently, Annette’s started offering free shipping and returns on all online retail orders.  Additionally, the business is expanding to include on-site cottages that other vendors and entrepreneurs can lease.  “We’re hoping to create a whole village that people can enjoy when they travel to see us!” says Milliff.

Stop by Annette’s Touch of Class at 2758 West Feeder IH 45, New Waverly, Texas, or visit shopatoc.com.