Almost a decade ago, Liz Cain sat across from a doctor who gave her news that would change her life in more ways than one: She had breast cancer. Soon after, Cain called her insurance company, thinking that she had previously taken out a cancer policy. She indeed had, and the insurance company paid dividends: enough to cover the costs of her care—with a little left over.
Cain had long dreamed of owning her own business, and the leftover funds from her cancer policy helped the Meridian native step out in faith to open gg’s, a gift-shop and boutique that sells a variety of clothing and shoe styles, along with gift items such as jewelry, candles, headbands, wallets and even craftsman knives.
“I wouldn’t have been brave enough to borrow money,” Cain said of her decision to open a storefront nestled in the heart of her Dalewood community in rural Lauderdale County eight years ago.
The small business owner has never forgotten her ability to make lemonade from the sourest of lemons, and she now uses her business to support other Dalewood residents who face cancer diagnoses.
“The most rewarding thing (about my work) is to help people who have cancer and when they’re trying to raise money to help those people,” Cain reflects. “I’m familiar with the cost and all that goes along with having cancer.”
To offset such costs, Cain allows local fundraisers to set up in front of her business, but she also initiates fundraisers herself, hosting events and donating a share of her profits back to worthwhile causes in her area. “I’m pro-community,” Cain notes. “Anytime I know of a need in the Lauderdale area, I like to be part of helping to meet that need.”
Cain’s love for her community has deep roots, as she was raised in the Lauderdale County seat, Meridian, also home to music stars such as Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams and country-music legend Jimmie Rogers. Cain attended Meridian High School, quipping that she graduated with “about 600 other people” and that the school “was huge then, too.”
Meridian High School has only grown since Cain attended as a student, as it is now one of the 20 largest high schools in the state, boasting nearly 1,300 students between grades 9 through 12.
After graduating from MHS, Cain married her husband, Mike, and the pair spent the ensuing years raising their daughter, Jenna, and their son, Jordan. Cain also went straight to work after high school, a decision she says has strengthened her skills as a business owner.
“I’ve learned a lot about business, and I have friends in business whose opinions I value,” Cain remarks. “You learn a lot, hands-on, as you do it, and if you enjoy your work, it’s not hard to give good customer service.”
Providing good customer service is at the heart of all Cain does at gg’s, as she notes that she hasn’t really looked into branching out into additional locations since opening her business in 2015. “Back eight years ago, there were a lot of people (running a business) out of their homes,” Cain recalls. “I did that for a year or so, and then I opened my storefront. I want to stay out here in Dalewood because I want to serve the people of Dalewood. It’s personal service in a smaller environment.”
gg’s boasts personal service, with Cain serving as the sole employee at the Lake Flora Drive edifice. “It would be great for business to be so strong that I need another person there to help,” Cain acknowledges. “But I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I can usually handle it.”
If Cain handed the reins of her small business over, she says she would also lose some of the personal connection she most enjoys, particularly her camaraderie with her male customers, who she says would often ordinarily feel uncomfortable patronizing a ladies’ gift shop.
“I love when I have guys who otherwise hate to shop, and yet I can help them choose a gift for their wife or their girlfriend,” Cain says. “If they say, ‘I’d like to have this in,’ then I can look for that as I order.”
Often what Cain already has on hand works out well for her patrons. For example, she says that the recent graduation at the flight school near Meridian brought in some unique visitors. “A lady came from France to watch her son graduate,” Cain says.
Although Lauderdale County has only 70,000 residents and is located in the heart of rural southeastern Mississippi, gg’s had just what the world-traveler was looking for. “She took some of my clothes back to France with her,” Cain says of one shopper. “I’m always glad when I’m able to send things to people in parts of the world with great shopping—and that they like what I have.”
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