Nancy Harris Vista
story by Emily Burgess
photos by Susan DeLoach
Charming wood floors, an aroma that invites you in and makes you want to stay. Beautiful displays of jewelry, floral décor, women’s clothing and candles, the source of the pleasing scent, greet you as you enter. Located in the heart of Port Royal, Nuances opened in 2010 and has become a destination boutique for many with owner Nancy Harris Vista at its helm.
Harris Vista is no stranger to owning businesses. She was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and recalls wanting and receiving a cardboard storefront to play with as a small child.
“As early as the age of three, I would take my brother’s things and try to sell them back to him. That spirit started very early for me and I’m not sure where it came from. Maybe from my love to shop,” Harris Vista said. Her career as a business owner in Port Royal began in 2003 where she ran several retail stores, as well as a restaurant, Moondoggies, run as a family business and recently sold at the end of December 2017.
Even with her entrepreneurial heart, Harris Vista did not attend school for business and originally received a degree in turf grass science and agronomy. But her passion was for business and her love for Port Royal made the perfect pair for these endeavors.
When the economy took a hit in 2007, Harris Vista closed down her retail spaces, but said she found herself missing it. Despite what those around her said and discouragement from many, she decided to take the chance and open Nuances in 2010, although the economy had not improved much.
The idea behind Nuances was to create something that was unique but useful to the surrounding community. Harris Vista wanted to skip the trends that are usually found in your typical storefronts and sell clothes for everyday and for every woman. Even the gifts available for purchase in Nuances were purchased with thought as to their usefulness.
“I’m very, very selective. I try to find things that are unique, but also have dual purposes. As we mature and accumulate things, we get to a point where we want to go the other way and simplify,” said Harris Vista. “That’s where the premise of the store came from.”
The tagline for Nuances is “discover the art of joyful living” and that’s what Harris Vista lives by. She believes that when customers splurge to purchase something they need to find joy in it. In a world full of things, her intention is that those found in her shop are a delight to the people who buy them.
Nuances best selling items are women’s clothing and the shop does not stock multiples of each article of clothing and sizes. Harris Vista intentionally does this, as she is dressing many locals and the desire to be wearing something unique is important to many. She makes sure that you won’t have those fashion faux pas moments of passing someone in the street wearing the same thing. She also tries to stay away from super trendy things and fads that will not stick around for long.
“I’ve developed the rule that if I won’t take it home myself, then I don’t buy it. It’s pretty simple,” said Harris Vista. As a practical person who desires to find joy in the things she purchases, she makes sure that the things she is buying to carry in Nuances meets these requirements.
Harris Vista moved to Port Royal with her family in 1991 and fell in love with the area. After living in the area for ten years, she knew it was the place for her businesses saying that it had a lot of soul. She loves that the Port Royal area has evolved into a place for families and a place for people of all ages, race and socioeconomic class making it an eclectic mix of people.
“It’s got a funky feel of its own. We’ve watched it evolve over the years and grow. When we first came, we just saw that everyone was so friendly and willing to help out,” said Harris Vista. “It is the oldest town in the new world; the oldest settlement. People are curious. I’ve become kind of like the chamber of commerce over the years and even the town building across the street sends people to me for information.”
Harris Vista feels positive about the growth that will come with Port Royal’s plans for the marina saying that she currently serves a majority of locals through her store and the development of the area will certainly bring tourism up. Her business is already booming though, thanks to her loyal following of customers.
Despite any growth, Harris Vista has built her reputation on personalized service and she never wants to get to the point where that is sacrificed. Her desire is to keep serving the community and her customers with an attitude of friendliness and good attentive service. She serves everyone who comes through the doors with the exact same love and care regardless of race, class, looks or any other distinguishing factor.
The personalized service is certainly working because Nuances has quite a loyal following. There are, of course, the locals who consistently come, but she also sees quite a few repeat tourists who make sure to stop by. Many who came several years ago while she was battling breast cancer, made sure to trek back in to see her and visit the store.
Even with her love for business, there are always challenges to face. Harris Vista says hers is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. As a business owner, she has to wear many hats including bookkeeper, manager of personnel, inventory specialist, which means she puts in many hours. Wearing all the hats of running a business is difficult, but the reward far outweighs the challenge and the reward for Harris Vista is by far the people.
“I have made some incredible friendships. They are more than just customers. Some of my very best friends started out as customers, and they still come in to shop, but it’s a different relationship now. When I got sick, I definitely saw who people were,” said Harris Vista. “What the people give to me is more than I give to them. They give me the strength to keep going everyday. This is not an easy business.”
Harris Vista has worked hard to create a store that helps bring a sense of community to the area and the people living here. She desires for Nuances to be a fundamental part of Port Royal that is more than just another store, but is a useful and practical place for people to purchase clothing, gifts and more. She also has a passion to give back to local charities through her business to further help those in need locally.
“If you love what you do, it’s easy,” said Harris Vista. “It’s amazing that when you go to bed at night, you want to wake up and do it the next day.” Her advice to young entrepreneurs is to use your instinct and pursue what you are passionate about. She says you have to find what it is that brings you joy and if you can find a way to turn that thing into a job than it won’t ever seem like work.
Harris Vista has clearly found what she is passionate about and created a welcoming space in Nuances. She is always working to improve upon what she has built and plans to keep serving the community by helping them find joyful living.