Meet Martha Chewning; the woman who was destined to open her own boutique. Born and raised here in Lexington, she attended Cassidy Elementary, Morton Middle and Henry Clay High before graduating from Centre College with a Bachelor of Science in Financial Economics. Martha’s retail experience began when she was just a fifth grader but let’s just say a knack for business runs in the family.
Her mom, Isobel Chewning, has owned The Cotton Patch for more than 30 years and she’s a descendant of the Carson’s and the Pirie’s of Carson Pirie Scott department stores. She always thought she would end up taking over The Cotton Patch but when the store’s neighboring space became available, Martha decided to open her own boutique. With her mother as a mentor, she was able to get Pirie up and running in just 6 months.
“I definitely sought out the location. I’m not sure I would have opened anywhere else because I love the Lansdowne Shopping Center,” she says about Pirie, which opened in February 2017.
Martha doesn’t consider herself a fashionista but she loves people, which is why getting to know the customers is her favorite part of owning the boutique.
“I like helping people find clothes that make them feel happy and look beautiful,” she explains.
In addition to getting to know her customers, Martha travels to buy product.
“I go to New York and Atlanta at least two times a year and I buy things anywhere from 6 months out to something that could be shipped to the store tomorrow. It’s pretty wild, but fun!” She admits that stocking the store can be scary because picking out the items is a total gamble. “There’s no way to tell if something is going to sell or not,” she explains.
The local boutique aims to have a mix of trend and tradition in both clothing and gifts while maintaining reasonable price points. (The average piece of clothing costs $65 and the average piece of jewelry costs $18.)
According to Martha, the scariest part of owning her own business thus far is the risk of failing but through the process she’s learned to go with her gut and trust her instincts.
“Just go for it,” she advises. “There is no sense in waiting and putting it off. Getting the store open was the hardest part.” Her best advice for budding entrepreneurs, however, is to fill your resume with experience.
“I would suggest working in a retail store or boutique for a while so you can figure out how clothing fits people and learn how to deal with customers because they’re the most important thing,” she explains.
This Lexington Lady has made her mark on Central Kentucky but it turns out the feeling’s mutual.
“I LOVE Lexington,” she explains. “I love how important shopping local is to our community. Lexington is so lucky to have so many awesome boutiques that all offer something different and I am constantly inspired by all of our local stores.”
P.S. HUGE congratulations to Martha on her recent marriage earlier in the summer!!!