MANATEE -- Jessica Adair wasn't sure her drawer full of clothing tags would ever amount to opening the boutique store she had dreamed about for a decade.
When Adair bought clothing she liked and knew it would fit the store of her dreams, she kept the tags for future inventory.
"I have always shopped in boutiques," said Adair, 31. "I like unique items not found at department stores."
Last June, her wish came true when she opened Beloved Boutique on Cortez Road West.
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Shoppers at Beloved Boutique won't find any name-brand clothes or items priced above $100. Adair hand-picks every piece of clothing or jewelry for the store. Her goal is to bring big-city fashion to Bradenton at small-town prices. She hopes her desire to carry flattering clothing for every figure will bring in customers of all ages.
"I try to get a lot of loose, relaxed stuff," she said. "The type that will fit any body."
The contemporary style of Beloved Boutique's clothing, jewelry and home accessories hasn't yet captured the college-age crowd, Adair said, but she uses social media to reach them.
Benefitting the Bradenton community and other communities around the world is written into Adair's business plan. The jewelry found at Beloved Boutique comes from local artisans or vendors whose production is tied to charity. The purchase of Good Work(s) leather wrap bracelets, for example,
benefits homeless populations and underprivileged children in Los Angeles.
Since opening last year, Adair hosted two boutique nights for women at Selah Freedom, The Salvation Army and Learn to Fish Recovery Ministry, where she removed all of her clothing from the boutique and replaced it with donations from the Bradenton community. The women were able to "have the boutique experience, but for free," Adair said.
Adair launched the online version of Beloved Boutique in October 2013. The online store helped her get her feet wet, but she knew she wanted a physical location. She shopped for real estate in the Bradenton area for six months before settling on the 1,400-square-foot spot at 6408 Cortez Road W.
The strip mall is an 18,000-square-foot building built in 2005, according to Manatee County records. The owner, Miami Beach-based CSMC 2006-C5 Retail 6310 LLC, purchased the property in July 2013 from Bayway Partners II LLC for $5.2 million.
Adair did research about renting spaces next to anchor tenants such as Fresh Market or Marshalls, but the prices were too steep and she wasn't comfortable with such a gamble.
"It was $25 per square foot plus bills," Adair said. "And that was too risky for me starting out."
She is happy with the space on Cortez Road, where tenants pay $14 per square foot, according to the property management website. Beloved Boutique receives a portion of the next-door Chase Bank's traffic, and Adair said filling the four other vacant spots in the strip mall would help her store "tremendously."
"If my store was beside Chipotle or Target, we would get so much traffic," Adair said. "But it's so expensive to start there. At least here I can pay my rent and I am at the point where I'm saving money for my next location."
To ease the burden of branching out completely on her own, Adair teamed up with Melissa Mohr-Bischoff, who operates Indulge Salon and Spa out of Beloved Boutique.
Mohr-Bischoff, 37, is a licensed aesthetician and has more than 13 years of professional experience doing hair, makeup, waxing and facials in-salon and on-location for weddings. She donates 10 percent of her revenues to Bayside Community Church.
Mohr-Bischoff was a stylist at IMG Academy, where Adair's husband, Stephen, worked. Through him she met Jessica and the two entrepreneurial women discovered they both attend Bayside Community Church. The community and ease of word-of-mouth advertising they find at the church has helped give their businesses a boost.
A month before Beloved Boutique and Indulge opened, the two spent day and night renovating the store space. A white ceiling was removed to create an exposed, industrial look and give the store a lofty feel. Adair said the property management company, Tampa-based Newark, Grubb, Knight and Frank, helped by painting baseboards and walls.
Adair grew up in Virginia Beach and her husband, Stephen, worked at IMG Academy four years ago. They moved back to Virginia for a short time, but soon missed the Gulf Coast beaches enough to move back to Bradenton two years ago with their two children -- Sawyer, who turns 5 next week, and Mycah, 6.
Mohr-Bischoff grew up in Bradenton and worked at IMG Academy for eight years. She lives in Bradenton with her husband, Eddie Bischoff III. They have no children, but five rescue dogs. Mohr-Bischoff said she's become famous around town for her scalp massages, and occasionally clients will stop in the salon just to have her perform simple services like shampooing.
Mohr-Bischoff and Adair hope to grow the boutique-salon into a place where women can congregate, shop, get pampered and have fun. Soon they'll start Friday Fashion Nights, where "girls night out" groups can sip wine and munch on appetizers while previewing Beloved Boutique's latest styles -- and maybe model them.
Though Adair still has a full-time marketing job with Ricoh, an office supplies manufacturer, she hopes to eventually spend all of her time at Beloved Boutique.
"This is where my passion is and where my heart is," she said. "I want to invest all of my time here, so no matter what happens I know I gave it all I had."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.