Centreville High School senior Chloe Ross, 18, has a summer job at Horse Hippie until she heads off to Virginia Tech to pursue a degree in fashion.
Photo by Mike Salmon.
“Horse Hippie” was Laura Batts’ high school nickname because of her interest in horses which she turned into a career as a environmental scientist that focused on horse farms and animal welfare in the equestrian industry. She grew up around horses and introduced her children to the equestrian life when time came. Fast forward a few years, and Horse Hippie is now a boutique she owns in Clifton that focuses on horse-themed handmade items made by local artists that features clothes, jewelry, accessories and gifts.
“Horse Hippie is a lifestyle brand, it’s how I live my life,” Batts said.
The store, which opened in November 2017, is co-located with the Clifton Café on the main street in Clifton. Inside it’s divided into a few rooms with a peacenik theme throughout. Even the bathroom has items on display, including soap, creams, books, essential oils, candles and incense. “What’s a hippie shop without incense?” she asked.
“Every item here has a backstory,” Batts said, “I’m really into repurposing,” she said. Each item has a story behind it which is on a card posted with the item. “A lot of Bohemian,” she said. While Batts is an in-between age and wasn’t old enough to be an original hippie in the 1960s, she feels protesting the Vietnam War would have been right up her alley and is into the folk music of the times. In the store, the stereo softly has a soundtrack going of Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and similar songs. She likes rap too but approaches everything with a “live and let live,” mentality. “I live the lifestyle, I don’t force it down anyone’s throat,” she said.
On Mother’s Day, Riker Lawrence, a local that runs the cash register at one of Clifton’s restaurants, wandered into Horse Hippie to pick out a present for her mother. “They have very cute stuff,” she said, before a baseball hat with “Tired As A Mother,” on the brim caught her eye. “I got my mother that,” she said. The hippie theme may not be for her though. “It’s more my sister’s style, she can pull it off better than I can,” she said.
In the beginning, Batts started with a trailer she drove around to horse shows, manning a table with the same type of items, and spoke at horse expos. With the horse influence around Clifton, her location is a good one and did well over the past holiday season, which is important to retail establishments. Her use of the internet is consistent with business today, and her Facebook page is big. “I do it more of a brand awareness,” she said. In one day, people came in that were from California, Missouri, Colorado, and Florida.
Getting her business up and going in Clifton did hit a couple of snags, but she opened on time. “The support locally has been wonderful,” she said. In the past, she had a nature store, so the retail business is not totally new to her, and her husband does the bookkeeping. Andrew Vo is a manager at the Clifton Café that shares the same building with Horse Hippie. “It ties in together,” Vo said.