The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Get to know the owner of Gypsy Wagon boutique, Carley Seale

By Emily Heft

The back room of Gypsy Wagon boutique is a haven of cozy color and positive energy. Faded multicolor quilts cover retro swivel chairs; brightly lettered art prints with slogans like “This Girl is on Fire” are tacked along the walls; and a wheeled backstock rack holds a faux fur coat and a slough of embroidered blouses. A carafe emblazoned with “Shh… This is Wine” smirks near a Mac computer. A calendar with curly lettering marks the dates for Black Friday, the Austin City Limits music festival, and this month’s staff birthdays.

Carley Seale doesn’t spend much time at her desk, though. She can’t remember the last time she sat at it, or whose notes now clutter its surface. The owner of the Knox-Henderson store, 40, spends days doing anything from balancing accounts from home, to ringing up customers at the bottle-cap-topped counter, or stopping by the store’s nearby distribution location.

The owner of Gypsy Wagon, Carley Seale. (Courtesy of DFW Style Daily)

She sat with ankles crossed. Savoring a handful of almonds and reclining in her chair, Seale looked as though breaks like these were hard to come by.

Seale’s previous job, she said, was equally busy. Stuck in a medical sales position with long hours and little intrinsic reward, she was inspired to jump into entrepreneurship.

“If I was spending this much time on a job I hated, I thought about how much I could do with that time for a job that made my heart beat faster,” she said. “And if I failed, I had something to go back to.”

Johnny Seale, Carley’s husband of 10 years, had always admired her instincts and quick timing. “I would see it when we reached a fork in a trail on a hike, or an engine warning light on a car—Carley always made a choice, but takes a careful pause when she needs it.”

When a 32-year-old Seale proposed her idea to her family, her husband stood by her.

“‘Why would you start a business just for shopping?’ my older brother would ask,” Seale said. “It was just foreign to him.”

Now, she said, that brother lives in Dallas too, and has had a change of heart. “The store is something that his friends’ wives are talking about. Something he’s glad to be associated with,” Seale said.

The youngest of three children, Seale was raised on a farm in Tyler, Texas, where her mother also raised racehorses and American Paint Horses. Donkeys, goats, chickens and “almost every domestic animal” added to the idyllic childhood, Seale said. Days were spent helping cows give birth or changing a horse’s dressing on an injury. Sometimes the family would take a long walk with the cows to a nearby farmer’s pasture for a weekend graze. Seale’s father worked in the city as a doctor. Her mother was in charge at home, Seale said. She was a female leader in a male-dominated farm industry, something Seale admired.

In their free time, Seale, her older sister, and her mother loved finding flea markets, vintage stores, and home goods with character. “On vacations, we would shop instead of going to museums,” she explained.

As an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, Seale studied accounting. In college, she balanced her straightforward studies with creative jobs: holiday wrapping at a jewelry store, then an internship at a fashion house based out of downtown Norman.

Retail experience, though, is not something she considers essential. “To succeed in this industry, to open your own shop, you’ll do best with a business degree. Fashion studies won’t get you as far.”

“You also have to be kind of crazy,” she said. “To do this, you need to not be fazed by work. You need to do 10 things at once. You have to run around all day and still remember to pick up your kids at the end of it all.”

Seale, who is a mother herself, favors a daily uniform that revolves around simplicity. “I don’t wear things that would make me cry if my 3-year-old spills on it,” she said. Seale has adapted to the frenzy of motherhood by sticking to one-piece looks: a patterned dress, for example, or a breezy tunic. “In the morning I pick something I can just throw on, put on shoes, and go. I envy those with time in the morning to get ready,” she said.

Early mornings sometimes are occupied with making deadlines while Johnny prepares their boys, John Beck, 6, and Earnest, 3, for school.

“Like most couples, we chop up our duties at home: who pays bills, who puts the kids to bed, who cooks, and who takes out the trash. We really try to show that Mom and Dad are a team that have equal say in what goes down in the Seale family,” Johnny said.

Alice Seale, Johnny’s stepmother, works in real estate; her shorter shifts allow her to ease the pressure on her son and daughter-in-law. “I try to make their lives easier,” she said. From helping out with daycare pickup to preparing home-cooked meals for them to enjoy, she tries to brighten their “evenings of exhaustion,” as Alice called them.

Seale bases her parenting style on her own mother’s approach. “I’ll never forget that, in seventh grade, we got this embarrassing pickup truck in the grossest green you can imagine. I was horrified. She picked me up from school in it, smiling and honking the horn at me. I was so mad at her, but that was her in a nutshell,” Seale said.

“She was the life of the party,” Seale said. “Vibrant, hardworking. Her secret to life was enthusiasm.”

Johnny describes his wife as similarly optimistic in her home and business lives, and notes Seale doesn’t stress about achieving perfection. “She likes when things or people have little idiosyncrasies,” Johnny said.

For example, their home: Seale describes the interior as “weird,” but in a charming way. “I shudder at the thought of coming home to a page from a Pottery Barn catalogue,” she said. Instead, the family mixes simple décor from West Elm, refurbished antiques from flea markets, and pieces that were her mother’s. “I like things with a story, things people will ask about,” she said.

“I admire the gift of hospitality Carley has in her home and store,” Alice said. “She never treats anyone as a stranger.”

When a salesgirl pokes her head around the back office’s saloon doors to inquire about a shift switching, Seale responded cheerfully, “Tell them whatever they want to do is fine with me. They can work it out.”

“I love managing,” Seale said. “It’s rewarding because all our employees truly believe in the brand to their core. Any mistake made, we all learn from.”

“We just reached 20,000 Instagram followers,” she said. “A lot of stores pay for followers, and they’re all robots. But the girl we have running ours–I’m so proud of her. The users all interact. It’s wonderful to see people are excited about what we’re doing.”

Head clothing and accessories buyer Molly McBride, dressed in a T-shirt, big necklace and kimono-like jacket, worked her way up through loyalty to the store. “I was working only about 12 hours a week as a sales associate here, when I was younger,” she said. “Carley saw more potential in me. She is a firm pusher, but in a good way. She is able to help people become their best selves.”

Seale’s passion is home goods and gifts; curating the store’s collection of clothes and accessories is done mainly by other employees. “I trust Molly’s style,” Seale says. “She picks things that she likes. Every time, they’re things the customers like too.”

The store has grown since its opening in 2007. Five years in, the store’s original location–a rickety wooden house on Bonita and Henderson–was upgraded. The airy, sun-drenched and pristinely white space they now occupy was acquired when then-tenant Needless Necessities, a furniture store, shut down.

The opening night at this new location surpassed all expectations. “You couldn’t even get in the door,” Seale said. After realizing she was in over her head, she ducked into the back to call her husband, who was then working in publication. “You have to put in your two weeks’ notice,” she said. “This is bigger than we ever thought.”

Today, Johnny has worked alongside his wife for five years. He heads the graphic design, sends out the press kits, and is the resident Mr. Fix-It.

“His phone is always ringing,” Seale said. “He can fix any technology issue. We’re never hindered by things like that, because of his work.”

“He also knows what kind of lightbulbs are used in each store,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

The couple has opened three additional stores: a Gypsy Wagon in Austin, TX; another in Crested Butte, CO; and a fine jewelry store called Roam, also in the Colorado mountain town. The motivation for the expansions was partially self-interested, Seale admits. “We loved Crested Butte. We wanted an excuse to go every summer.”

Outside the Dallas shop, cacti line the windows and doors. A geometric antelope skull serves as a welcome sign. Like a real gypsy’s wagon, the windows are partially hidden with bright fabric, with bits of illuminated marquee letters or turquoise cowboy boots peeking through.

Gypsy Wagon.jpg
Gypsy Wagon's logo (Courtesy of Pinterest)

“I like being on the east side of 75,” she said, “because our customers feel like they’re discovering something. Even though we’re right here in the middle of things, we’re not in NorthPark, we aren’t in Uptown. You have to come specifically to us. I want them to feel like it’s worth it.”

The home and gift section of the shop consists of things like sheepskin pillows, flowery greeting cards, and colorful antique books, and the clothes and accessories include crystal pendants, huaraches, and wide leg jeans.

“I want our customers to walk in and see little pieces of joy,” Seale said. “That’s what I want them to feel like they are buying–a bit of happiness.”

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