by Grant Moser
“Some of my closest friends are full-figured, and I see what they go through to put an outfit together. They can’t just run to a store and pick up something. There aren’t a lot of stores that cater to them and their tastes. They want to be current, they want to be chic. I wanted to offer a space that does that,” explained Chanea Davis, 31.
So in September of this year, Davis opened Bella Nor Boutique at 7117 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy. “What I want to do is bring a sense of exclusivity to the full-figured woman. What separates me from the competition like big-box stores is that they are mass market retailers. The odds of you seeing someone in clothes that you have is pretty significant shopping at those stores.
“Here you get not having to worry about going out and seeing another woman in the same dress. Plus the great thing about a boutique is the hands-on customer service. I am here to make this a memorable shopping experience.”
Though Davis wrote her first business plan for the store six years ago, she feels now was the right time to open, even with the bad economy. “I am risk-averse. I am not an entrepreneur. I’m just a very passionate person with a dream. It became more uncomfortable for me not to do this than to do it. When I’m 90, do I want to look back on my life and have a regret for not doing this?”
She also thinks that clothing for full-figured women (sizes 14-24) is a flourishing market. “The average woman’s dress size in the U.S. is size 14, and a lot of stores and designers don’t cater to that size woman. When you think about this economy, the businesses that are really going to survive are those born out of necessity, those sort of niche businesses that cater to a focused segment. Very few stores cater exclusively to size 14-24, which is what I think separates Bella Nor.”
Davis’ decision to open the boutique was also influenced by her 5-year-old son. She had gotten to the point in the corporate world where she needed to invest a lot more time to further her career there — and that would have taken too much time away from her son.
“Work-life balance doesn’t exist; it’s actually about work-life integration,” she said. “Although Bella Nor is a 24/7 job, I can build my activities around my son. It was scary giving up a guaranteed paycheck with benefits, but I feel like I’m walking into my purpose.”
One of her main purposes, Davis said with a smile, is to make sure every woman has a good pair of jeans. “I’m a firm believer in a good pair of jeans, and that’s why I have a ton of jeans because all too often I believe full-figured women don’t invest in the proper jeans. We need jeans where the pockets are like so, the stretch is like so, the cut is like so.”
The boutique carries more than just jeans, however. Some of the current fashion trends you can find here are tribal print cardigans, animal prints and sequins “because everyone wants to shine and sparkle.” She carries brands that include Yummy Tummy, Monif C dresses and Kiyonna dresses. She also carries accessories, including pieces from Ardmore-based jewelry designer Marilyn Schiff.
“My grandmother used to sew my clothes when I was a child. I remember buying patterns and fabric to make my clothes,” explained Chanea. “I briefly dabbled in sketching and designing and sewing, but I just don’t have the time or patience for that. But I’ve always loved fashion. And I love dressing other people.”
For more information, call 267-335-3472 or visit www.bellanorboutique.com