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Makers and Shoppers and Workers, Oh My!

Makers and Shoppers and Workers, Oh My!

  • This story originally appeared in the April 2024 "20 Under 40" issue of COMO Magazine.
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Poppy stands the test of time as a local boutique for artists, consumers, and providing a home base for its employees.

Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, Poppy has attracted locals and visitors alike with its selection of handmade items crafted by artists from mid-Missouri and across the nation. The boutique carries an assortment of products and has become known for its jewelry. Other popular items include household goods such as ceramics and candles, and crafty materials like greeting cards and stationery. 

Opened in 1981 under the ownership of Barb McCormick, Poppy welcomed Liz Tucker in 2004 shortly after she graduated from college. 

“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, so I just started working at Poppy part-time — then it turned into closer to full-time, and then it turned into managing the shop,” Tucker says. “When she [Barb] retired around 2011, I bought the business from her.”  

Tucker describes herself as someone passionate about handcrafted goods and supporting the work of artists, so naturally, Poppy was a perfect match. Aside from supporting artists, Poppy prides itself on 

its ability to highlight new artists by frequently rotating merchandise. 

“What I love about Poppy is that you’ll find something there that you haven’t seen anywhere else. It just feels like such a special place,” she adds. The procurement of new items to feature begins with an artist submission, which can be completed via the store’s website. From there, the submission goes through a process before Tucker decides what makes it to the store, and though a fair amount of consideration goes into her decision, she says there isn’t a real “formula” to it.  

Tucker considers what the store already has in stock — ensuring inventory diversity — and if the artist is prepared to keep up with the cost of production if they’re newer to the scene. Typically, she requests to see some of the artist’s work in person before deciding, whether by inviting them to the shop to have a meeting or going on buying trips herself. Despite all the factors that go into the process, she says that the store gets new products nearly daily and that customers will see a difference each time they stop in.  

She explains a large part of it as a gut instinct that she first discovered while accompanying McCormick on buying trips to scope out potential goods. 

“We’d walk into an artist’s booth, and she would play this game. I thought it was just for fun, but I think it was a test,” Tucker recalls. “She would say, ‘Pick out your top five things that you think would do well in the shop and I’ll do the same and we’ll get together and see what matches up.’ Usually, four out of five would be the same. I think there is just this feeling that Poppy has, as its own entity, in terms of what will work best.”   

Poppy continues to separate itself from other boutique stores with its unique personal shopping service, a fun way to help customers pick out a gift for their loved ones. Imagine that someone you know is a regular at Poppy and loves a variety of their items. This person can pop into the store and select a few items that they would love as a gift and the Poppy team will keep a running wish list for them. When it’s time for you to shop for your loved one, Poppy will share the wish list with you and assist in selecting the ideal item. 

If something happens to be out of stock, the team will suggest similar available options. If you’re shopping for someone who has never been to Poppy, it still has you covered. Simply mention who you are shopping for, a little bit about the person, and your budget, and the staff will help you find the perfect item.  

Ultimately, Poppy’s sparkle comes from the store’s community focus. Poppy doesn’t just serve the community either — it unites people. 

“When I first bought Poppy, I had this thought like, ‘This is my store,’” Tucker says. “And, technically, legally, on paper, I own Poppy, but I feel like I’m a steward of this entity that doesn’t belong to me but to the community.” 

Now, Tucker believes that her role in Poppy is about keeping the progression on track so that it can continue to thrive “for whoever the next steward is.” 

920 E Broadway #1

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