Thursday, March 23, 2023

Boutique owner keeps pawsitive outlook

Rhonda Kaye Stankiewicz may be the proud owner of Jack’s Outfitters in The Shops at Highland Village, but anyone who has visited her clothing store can tell she’s a dog lover through and through. After all, who isn’t?

Honestly, the hints of puppy love are everywhere. The store, named after her late yellow Labrador retriever Jack, is a specialty shop offering unique must-have men’s and women’s apparel, gifts, accessories, and an ever-expanding treasure trove of supplies for man’s best friend. This includes everything from dog beds and treats to bedazzled collars and signs for dog lovers across the globe.

But it doesn’t stop there. There are doggie portraits and “Beware of Dog Kisses” signs scattered throughout the store, and then there are the occasional well-behaved door greeters — her dogs.

For years, Jack held that role. Now it’s his gorgeous great-nephew, Billy, and friend, JonSnow.

“There are people out there who at first think we’re just a dog store,” Rhonda said with a laugh. She’s also a well-known dog breeder and trainer and has worked with several of her loyal customers’ dogs. “These dogs are so sweet and well-behaved; they are actually the biggest draw — when I am at the store, they are right by the front door.

“These dogs are my family and have gotten me through some rough patches. I’m grateful for that.”

Jack’s may appear to be all about dogs, but it has gained a significant following among Denton County residents who crave quality clothing and don’t necessarily want to rely on big-box stores to fill those needs.

Business is going to the dogs at Jack’s Outfitters. (Photo by Lynn Seeden/Seeden Photography)

Jack’s originally began as a men’s store only before transitioning in 2010 to a specialty shop for the entire family. Their focus is on name brands you’ve come to know and love as well as fun and exciting ones you just can’t find all under one roof. This includes Patagonia, Birkenstock, True Grit, and Vuori lifestyle and loungewear clothing and shoe lines for men and women. Jack’s also offers OluKai and Sanuk, Johnnie-O, Burlebo, RVCA, Quicksilver, and more.

Jack’s also sells wildly popular lavender-infused stuffed animals, slippers, and neck wraps. And their Sweet Grace Candle line is absolutely to die for. It’s their signature store scent, and customers are constantly raving about it.

“It’s more of a lifestyle store now, and we cater to all ages,” Rhonda said. “People really do enjoy the experience. Even the new people who come in say, ‘Wow. You always have so much great stuff. I could spend hours in here.’ I just try to find the unique stuff, and we’ve continued to evolve and adapt the business as the years have gone by.”

Rhonda’s eye for style comes from working as a buyer in the surf and ski industry. Originally from California, she spent 11 years with Nordstrom as a personal shopper. Having her own store where she can build relationships with her customer base and continually give back to the community is a dream come true. It’s also a blessing to combine her love for apparel and her passion for dogs.

“I’ve been breeding since 2003,” she said. “I got my first lab from my uncle while I was still living in California. He bred and showed Labrador retrievers, and when I was in my mid-20s, I went to a dog show with him and fell in love with the breed. He ended up giving me my first one when I graduated from college. His name was Cash, and he lived to be 17. When I moved to Texas and started working at Nordstrom, I saw a lab puppy that a customer had and immediately wanted another one. I got the breeder’s name and began breeding with her for 14 years before I started working with different breeders. Anyone can breed, but what separates me is the health testing before they are actually bred. There’s a high demand for therapy dogs, and this breed happens to be really smart and easy to train. They’re beautiful dogs.”

She added, “When COVID hit, I really started promoting dog training and dog sitting. Now, it keeps me pretty busy just with clients who got puppies from me. It’s like another full-time job.”

Rhonda said that Jack’s mother was named Magnolia Blue. And when Jack passed away, Rhonda said the outpouring of support from her Jack’s Outfitters clients was unbelievable. These dogs are just as important to the store as Rhonda is, and those relationships — along with great clothing — are what keeps people coming back after all of these years.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” Rhonda said. “It’s hard work, but I’m grateful for all of it.”

If you’d like to learn more about Jack’s Outfitters, visit Jack’s Outfitters on Instagram at @jacksoutfittershighlandvillage. Or better yet, stop in for a visit. They are located at 1101 Shoal Creek in The Shops at Highland Village.

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