Carrie Rengers

Sure, she’ll still sell you a car, but look what else Jill Hattan is selling now

Car dealer Jill Hattan is branching out with her purchase of the Pink Saloon in Waterfront Plaza. The store fulfills a longtime dream she’s had to own her own store.
Car dealer Jill Hattan is branching out with her purchase of the Pink Saloon in Waterfront Plaza. The store fulfills a longtime dream she’s had to own her own store. Courtesy photo

It’s taken about a quarter century longer than she initially planned, but Jill Hattan finally is pursuing her dream of owning a retail business that has nothing to do with cars.

Hattan will remain president and CEO of Don Hattan Dealerships, but she also now owns the Pink Saloon at Waterfront Plaza.

“I’m happy to be doing it,” she says. “It’s more of a passion project at this point.”

Though she worked at her family’s dealership growing up, Hattan says she “had no interest in the car business, and my dad will second that.”

In fact, she’s often joked that instead of starting a car dealership, she wishes her grandfather had opened a shoe store instead.

WalletHub compared 100 U.S. cities across 19 key indicators of startup viability. The data set ranges from five-year business-survival rate to office-space affordability.

Hattan was living in Denver and had dreams of opening a retail shop that had clothing, furniture and home goods in the up-and-coming LoDo area, which she remembers thinking was “going to be pretty cool.”

She was right about the area, which has boomed over the years, but Hattan also was right in realizing her English literature degree wasn’t the best background for starting a business. So she returned home to Wichita to take some business classes and work at her family’s dealership in the meantime.

Instead of more menial jobs, this time around Hattan’s father had her call customers to thank them for their business and get their feedback, which occasionally included handling issues they were having.

“I’d get feedback and go fix the problem,” she says. “That’s what got me started was fixing problems.”

Hattan grew in the business and eventually took it over in 2009, but she never forgot about her dream of her own store.

As she’s grown her family’s business — there are four locations now — Hattan says she realized she might be able to take on another retail business, too.

“I figured it might not be that much different than starting another dealership.”

Hattan has both started a dealership from scratch and purchased one, and she says, “They both have their pros and cons.”

She’s a longtime Pink Saloon shopper — the business started in El Dorado where there’s a Hattan dealership — and Hattan says she’s a fan of the store and its employees. She doesn’t plan a lot of changes.

“I don’t want to fix what’s not broken because they are doing a great job,” she says. “I just would want to expand on that.”

That includes growing the online side of the business.

Hattan describes the Pink Saloon as an upscale boutique for women that’s “very fashion forward” and is a “fun place to shop.”

Former owner Brooke Hebert is remaining at the store.

“This is her baby, and she wants to see it successful,” Hattan says.

Though she’ll have to pay a little more attention to the Pink Saloon in the beginning, Hattan says she thinks eventually it will just be in the rotation of businesses she checks in on.

She says she’s also looking forward to “the fun stuff,” such as going to market.

Hattan says she has no regrets about how things have turned out, though she says, “I maybe play the what-if game once in a while.”

Years ago, she says her father helped her start trying to come up with a business plan for a store.

So what does he think now that she’s finally doing it?

“My dad thinks it’s pretty cool,” she says, then adds, “He might think I’m a little crazy.”

  Comments