The Look Boutique endures as a local staple for women’s apparel and accessories
By Judy Royal
Taking over an existing retail business can be a daunting task, especially when your professional background is in telecom, hedge funds and nursing. Wendy King, however, found that what she lacked in formal experience she made up for as a longtime fashion consumer when she began working at The Look Boutique. It wasn’t long before she went from part-time employee to owner after purchasing the shop from retiring former owners Jan and Bob Lemons in 2018.
“I am a bit of an explorer and have always enjoyed delving into new adventures,” King said. “While many retail professionals began working retail in high school and college, I had no such experience. After moving to Cashiers in 2017 and an early retirement from nursing, I found myself needing to be more engaged. I found I loved working in apparel and with the clients.”
The Look began over a decade ago as a jewelry store. The former owners discovered a demand for women’s slacks, tunics and tees, and the shop is now known for its wide selection of essentials, jewelry and designer apparel, King said.
“We offer our clientele an exciting and extensive curated collection of designer apparel, jewelry and accessories from around the world,” she said. “Our tagline is ‘be beautiful every day,’ so we focus on offering a broad array of choices to match the activities of the day. These include a lineup of apparel ranging from dress to country club casual to comfy fun. We carry beautiful event pieces in the shop and offer consultations for made-to-order apparel for customers looking for that something special for a wedding, black-tie or other dress event. Artful design, timeless classics and wardrobe essentials are cornerstones of what can be found in our treasure trove.”
Customers span a variety of ages, backgrounds and needs, King said.
“There are those who know what they love and want and those who are out to savor something new, exciting and different,” she said. “The Look is a destination stop for many who live on the plateau either seasonally or year-round.”
Among The Look’s biggest cheerleaders is Mary Bradley, who lives in Charleston, SC, full-time but has a second home in Cashiers, NC. She said she has been a customer since the beginning and stops by two or three times per month, sometimes just to say hello.
“I shop there over shopping in Charleston simply because they know their products,” Bradley said. “It’s a wonderful shop, and it’s the only shop I go to. It’s a family feeling to go there. They create an atmosphere that’s welcoming.”
These relationships are what it’s all about, King said.
“Our customers are the best thing about being in the business,” she said. “We love sharing stories, smiles and laughter. The Look team strives to provide an atmosphere where ladies can have fun or come in to meet a specific wardrobe need. I believe this sets us apart. Every customer is and deserves to feel special.”
It’s not just about products but also about presence, King said.
“Our shop space is large, quaint and bright,” she said. “It was once a private home, which gives the shop a warm and inviting atmosphere. The prior owners had been avid gardeners, so year after year the natural beauty they left behind gives us and our customers much joy and happiness.”
While King has embraced her role as a retail shop owner, she admits there have been challenges, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It required us to make changes in our buying patterns, the styles we selected, quantities and even sizing,” she said. “There have also been supply channel challenges. We are intentionally diverse in which designers we work with and where they are located in the world. This has given us the ability to shift orders as needed to maintain fresh selections for the customers. Our designers in France, Italy, India, Montreal and even LA have all had their struggles over the past two years.”
In addition, COVID-19 affected staffing levels at The Look due to the public interaction involved with the job, and while it was difficult to lose these team members, new associates stepped up to fill the void, King said. One was even a referral from a neighboring business, a testament to the bond among locals, she added.
“We are blessed to have a caring community and collaborative business owners who we can bounce things off and provide encouragement and support to one another,” King said. “We live in a special place with special people. I’m so grateful to be part of it.”
More About The Look Boutique
Owner: Wendy King
Services: Women’s clothing and accessories
Location: 137 Highway 107 North, Cashiers, NC