I’m thrilled to start my new monthly “Boutique of the Month” feature!
Meet Cathy Starnes. She owns Iris Boutique on Cherry Street in East Town. Her entire store is one of my favorites to complete an outfit: Accessories, including jewelry, shoes and handbags. My favorite part about her store is the variety of styles and price points…something for everyone! Check out my interview below with Cathy.
Tell me about you?
I’ve worked in retail and styling my entire career. I started my career with Nordstrom and created a Personal Styling firm in the Washington DC area. During my time as a personal stylist, I found accessories to be the biggest mystery for most of my clients and the aspect of dressing that makes the biggest impact. It was the area they had the most questions about, and for most of them it was the missing piece in their wardrobe. I also found accessories to be the hardest category to shop for with my clients, because, for most stores, accessories were a bit of an afterthought.
Tell me about your store and and what your vision is?
I wanted to create a place for women to discover and explore accessories, learn how to wear them, and I wanted to be a resource where they could purchase those accessories to round out their wardrobe. My vision is to have sophisticated, wearable accessories for women’s everyday life. We focus on a range of price points and categories so that every woman can find something she loves and needs.
Why just an accessory store?
During my time spent in merchandising and personal styling, I found that many people didn’t know the power accessories can have for a wardrobe. At Iris, we emphasize this power by only carrying quality accessories. We help women accessorize their looks so they can feel more put together and confident to go out and focus on the more important things in their life. And I love to see women use accessories to help utilize what they already have in their wardrobe.
Because accessories are the key!
What made you choose Cherry street for your location?
From the first moment I saw this street, now 4 plus years ago, I knew my boutique would be on Cherry St. I love the charm of it, and the lovely and unique business neighbors we have here. I also love the central location between downtown and residential neighborhoods.
What is your favorite part about owning a store?
My favorite part about owning a store is the creativity of creating something from nothing as well as building a community around the store with my team, partners, and clients.
What is your least favorite part about owning a store?
The administrative work! I would rather be focusing on the creative aspects of the business, choosing product and building relationships for the store, and making Iris a beautiful space where’s it’s easy and fun to shop.
What is the biggest challenge of owning your own store?
Buying product for the store has been a big learning curve for me. Learning the right product to purchase, the amount of product to carry... but that’s also been the most exciting part because I’ve been able to learn a whole new industry.
What is your personal favorite item in the store right now?
I really love the animal print shoes, both the leopard and the snakeskin.
Do you own a pair yourself?
Oh yeah! 2! 1 leopard and 1 snakeskin
What is your favorite trend for fall that you were most excited to buy for?
My favorite trend that is continuing from spring is big earrings! I’m obsessed with big earrings. I can’t get enough! And especially obsessed with big hoops this fall!
What changes are you making for the store this fall season that you’re thrilled about?
Expanding our handbag collection with some new vendors. We’re adding exciting brands like Clare V and bringing in a really unique genuine leather line out of Nigeria, as well as expanding our Vegan leather handbag selection, which has been doing amazing.
What is your best selling category?
Jewelry by far! We carry a lot of unique jewelry, both handmade and fun national brands at a mid level price point that makes sense for everyday. Jewelry is my first fashion love! I love the significance or sentiment that can come with a great piece of jewelry, so jewelry is near and dear to my heart.
How do you manage owning a local boutique and family life?
I have 2 little boys, ages 3 and 5 that are my highest priority, and I’m able to balance both them and my store with the support of my amazing team and husband. Intentionally setting boundaries on work hours and being fully present, whether at home or in the store, helps a lot as well.
What do you see for the future of your store?
I want every woman in Grand Rapids to be well accessorized and confident in their abilities to look their best, and I would love to be their go to resource for fashion education, style and unique product.
Do you have any words of advice?
Always follow your intuition when it comes to style (and anything in life). Deep down you know what you love and what works for you, regardless of trends or others’ opinions.