Mary Lou Kerr

Soft, Silky & Savvy

Sometimes the wrong door is the right one! At least for Texas born Mary Lou MacClendon. Accidentally opening the wrong door launched her career with NASA. "They hadn't even given me the required badge, and I just opened a door inquiring where the Art Department was, found it down the hall, presented my portfolio, and was hired! I was there with the original seven astronauts and Mission Control was not even in place then. I was invited to launchings, as we prepared post-launching reports with graphics and many technical illustrations. It was a fascinating three year accident," laughed the NE Louisiana State University graduate.

A free spirit, Mary Lou happily accepted a job in Germany and eventually became Project Director for the United States Service Club, assisting in German/American relations. "It was interesting and challenging, and I realized after two years, if I did not return to the US, I probably never would!"

Back in Louisiana, where she grew up, Mary Lou knew she wanted to work in Atlanta, Dallas, or Nashville. Exercising her belief in goal setting, she sent resumes in all directions. She landed the long-range planning job she wanted, and took off for Atlanta, where she met and married Harvard Graduate Bruce Kerr, her husband now of 41 years. 

The couple moved to Connecticut where Bruce continued his investment career and Mary Lou volunteered and browsed art galleries. "A friend of mine asked me to create a few things for a show, so I painted and decorated some baskets for fun. It materialized into a full-fledged business with requests as far away as The Cloister on Sea Island. Five years and about 800 baskets later, I was burned out. When retirement time rolled around, we traveled the East Coast looking for the perfect spot, which turned out to be beautiful Beaufort! Settling in, I looked at Bruce, inquiring, 'Now what?'"

Always a fan of beautiful linens, Mary Lou decided she wanted to open a linen shop. "Fine," her husband said, "Write a business plan!" Having no retail experience Mary Lou quickly obtained advice from Small Business Advisors, wrote her plan, found the perfect location, and in 1997 realized another successful career with the opening of the lovely shop, In High Cotton. Snuggled comfortably at 903 Bay Street in the midst of Beaufort's buzzing shopping and dining area, Mary Lou's boutique offers a journey into beautiful linens from Russia, Belgium, and Austria, stunning lace and handmade delicacies, some passed on for generations. In only a moment Mary Lou delights her customers with detailed history of the many linens displayed. My gaze at the lovely staged bedroom, complete with cozy fireplace, mantel, and mirror prompted an unusual query from Mary Lou. "Are you soft and silky or cool and crisp? "Soft and silky," I responded dreamily.

Dripping in soft and silky elegance next to me, the beautiful bed confirmed Mary Lou's thought. "A Frenchman once declared the most important piece in our lives is the bed. It's where we're born, we love, and we die. Leave it to a Frenchman," she smiled smoothing the luxurious sheets framed by a stunning headboard.

Reluctantly departing the lace and linen enchantment, I noticed sparkling evening bags and a stand with unique cuff bracelets. "I swore I'd never carry jewelry," admitted Mary Lou, "But when I go to market and see something I like, and think my customers would like too, I say to myself, 'I don't sell that...but why not?' It's been 17 years of pleasure and learning. I've met wonderful people who return and many call with special orders." At that moment her brightest smile emerged as she warmly welcomed another customer into her charming world. It's difficult to believe this is a gal who insists she just "jumped into this retail career," as her eclectic tastes for her winsome boutique more than reflects her innate talent.


Up Close
Successful living: Have a purpose and a plan!
Soft & Silky or Crisp & Cool: Soft & Silky
Favorite Flower:  Orchids and roses. I love the fragrance of fresh roses!
Words to Live By: Live each day to the fullest because that day never comes back again!
Loves: Beautiful table settings-they tell the whole story, and you can change them all the time!
A Treasure: My black and gold opera shoes, purchased in Germany many years ago. They are still beautiful and a collectible to me.