Connie Leal Ballenger had worked for a large public accounting firm for nearly a decade when she quit the corporate world to open a clothing boutique in Upper Arlington. Eighteen years later, Leal is going strong and hosting its first pop-up shop.
While the 2,300-square foot boutique is closed for renovations from June 27-30, Leal will operate a pop-up next door, at 2132 Arlington Ave., offering 50 to 75 percent discounts on clothing by Nicole Miller, Carmen Marc Valvo, Yigal Azrouel, Alice + Olivia, and other designer labels. Shoes, handbags, hats from Over My Head, accessories from Star Jewelers of Bexley, and stationery from Pinney Kelly Paper will also be in the mix.
“The pop-up will be very casual and hopefully attract people who have misconceptions about Leal,” said Ballenger. “If they come in, they will see we have merchandise for all ages, for all sizes and price points.”
Leal also offers personal shopping services and helps customers find specific items they can’t locate, even if it means directing them to merchandise at another retailer. Additionally, associates make house calls, helping customers weed through their closet and identify holes in their wardrobe.
That kind of one-on-one assistance is great for customers, but has also fed the misconceptions Ballenger referenced.
“I think it starts with the impression that a boutique that offers lots of service must be expensive,” she said. “Also, we do carry designer lines. But because we strive very hard to carry unique merchandise, many of our designers are up-and-coming, which means you are not paying for a name. However, the perception exists that all designer clothing is expensive.”
Plus, when fashion editors feature Leal merchandise in editorials, Ballenger said they tend to pick pieces with a “wow” factor and those pieces tend to be on the high end of the shop’s product mix.
Leal’s core shoppers care about fashion, but aren’t obsessed with trends, she said.
“Our typical customer likes some help in developing her style and building her wardrobe,” she added. “Depending on the woman, sometimes that involves a lot of help. For others, it might be just confirming her selections. Either way, she trusts us to have the product that is right.”
If the Leal renovation goes according to plan, the boutique will reopen July 3.
“We are hoping we are ushering in a new era,” she said. “The major road construction on Arlington Avenue that took two years is over. We are hoping that the world is truly starting to climb out of the recession and I feel it is time to reintroduce Leal− new and improved.”