Bertha Troutman-Rambeau opened the doors of Bertram’s Exclusives three years ago.
As an artist, mother and entrepreneur, Troutman-Rambeau said her store is her place of refuge, and she hopes it’s a place of peace for everyone who visits.
Behind the hand painted mural on the windows of the storefront, original paintings by Troutman-Rambeau hang above racks of colorful African clothing. One wall is home to shelves of pillows, and an array of masks, earrings, dolls and other specialized gifts also populate the store.
“Rhinestone is my baby … I’ve always been a blinger,” Troutman-Rambeau said, pointing out the bedazzled jackets, artwork and pillows around the store.
Troutman-Rambeau credits her parents and God for being powerful influences in setting her up to be a successful business woman, as she learned to sew and make jewelry from her mother and aunt as a child.
As a retired educator with degrees in early childhood administration, Troutman-Rambeau has never lost sight of her creative spirit. The store is routinely transformed into an art studio where she holds painting classes. These are now held virtually as the store has adapted to COVID-19 precautions.
Online shopping is also available, as Troutman-Rambeau’s one-of-a-kind gifts are available on Etsy and Ebay.
While Bertman’s carries a wide range of products with an artistic touch, they specialize in African wear and custom clothing for Greek organizations like the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Many other spirit wear stores around Athens do not carry products for historically African-American Greek organizations due to the high licensing fees.
To fill this gap, Troutman-Rambeau’s products currently focus on Black Greek organizations, but she welcomes everyone to her shop and can create any custom design, with or without her signature bling.
“I’m a Black business owner, but I serve mankind,” she said.
Her hope is that people will come see what is behind the painting on her windows and walk away with a new friend.
This story is part of The Red & Black photo desk’s weekly series recognizing Black-owned businesses in Athens. Our photographers started this series in the summer of 2020, as we received requests for information on local Black-owned businesses available to support.
In a previous version of this article, Troutman-Rambeau’s educational degree was misrepresented. This error has since been corrected. The Red & Black regrets this error.