The Elephantz TrunkNina Monroe’s goal is to support the local economy and encourage Fluvanna residents to buy local. It’s not that easy when surrounded by massive brick and mortar stores in nearby Charlottesville and Richmond and online giants like Amazon. But Monroe is not deterred and has a unique boutique, The Elephantz Trunk, that she hopes will do well.

Located in a former motel renovated by Chris Fairchild several years ago, the refurbished brick building with the green awnings can be spotted at the crossroads of Dixie, where Routes 6 and 15 meet. Walking into her boutique is a different experience reminiscent of visiting a Gordonsville shop. Her boutique features handmade jewelry she designed, as well as a variety of manufactured pieces and sterling silver. All pieces are one-of-a-kind and bold.

“The statement pieces of fashion jewelry are purchased in limited quantities like four or five pieces,” said Monroe. “This ensures that you don’t have everyone walking around with the same piece of jewelry which begs the question, ‘Where did you get that?’”

She also sells homemade bath and body products using natural ingredients like Dead Sea salt, Epsom salts, shea and cocoa butters, coconut and essential oils, local honey, beeswax and more. “We have our local honey for sale too. The hives started out in my backyard at home, but have been relocated just down the street a few yards,” she said. The shop also sells reupholstered antique, vintage and vintage-inspired furniture which Monroe scouts out in flea markets and antique stores and reupholsters herself with the help and support of her mother Audrey, who taught her the trade of upholstery. The pieces are charming and updated with today’s look and light colorful patterns. Obviously a do-it-yourself designer, Monroe has a dream come true in this boutique.

A name like The Elephantz Trunk has to have a story behind it.

“I have a passion for elephants,” Monroe said. “I’ve collected them for many years, with most of my collection coming from friends. The most unique one was given to me from a friend, and the sale of that elephant benefited an elephant preserve. They are unique sensitive animals. When I was trying to come up with a name, this one just made sense.”

Attracting customers is key to the success of a retail business. Monroe described her ideal customers as those who are looking for something out of the ordinary, re-imagined and distinctive, or someone looking for that statement piece to compliment the home or wardrobe. 

“I’ve always wanted to have a mix of different offerings in a boutique – something that I could be creative with and share with the community,” she said. “All who enter seem to be pleasantly surprised by what’s here. They come back and send their friends and family.” Customers who have been to the boutique turned to Facebook with positive comments, encouraging others to visit. One customer stopped by to purchase jewelry and ended up buying bath salts as well.

One of the things Monroe enjoys about her business is her creative control over the products offered for sale.

“If a customer would like something that I don’t have, I could most likely make it and have it available for them the next time they visited,” she said.
Nevertheless, many are skeptical that any business can survive in rural Fluvanna. But Monroe remains optimistic that with the right marketing strategy she can draw more customers.
Dixie was a convenient location for her.

“It’s close to home and I’ve always wanted to offer something to the community. I love the building here, especially after Chris renovated it with the landscaping, trees and lighting. It made the area seem new and fresh,” she said. “There is a shortage of retail businesses in this part of Fluvanna County, therefore consumers head to Charlottesville or Richmond to shop. The traffic passes through Dixie if you’re heading from Fork Union to Richmond or Charlottesville.”

Monroe is a native Fluco. She grew up in Fluvanna, attending school and working, and the majority of her family still lives here. Monroe works a full-time job during the week, and dedicates the weekends to The Elephantz Trunk.

She hasn’t done it alone and credits her daughter LaTonja, who she says has been with her every step of the way, and her mother Audrey for their support. Other friends and family jump in to help when needed.
“You really don’t realize how important it is to shop local until you have a local business yourself,” Monroe said.

The Elephantz Trunk is located at 6774 James Madison Highway and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, contact Nina Monroe at 434-327-7581 or visit theelephantztrunk.com.