Intimate U in Lexington, Virginia, was born the way most great ideas are: from necessity.
Owner Tracey Lackey explains it best.
"Growing up in Lexington, I wished for a very long time that there was someplace to purchase nice bras and panties, beautiful sleepwear and the most wonderful loungewear locally. Typically, we had to travel a least an hour or more to the nearest chain store, or we happened upon a great boutique while out of town or we settled for what was available in the local discount stores.
"For about seven or more years, I vocalized my wish. No one took my advice and opened a lingerie boutique, so finally I took the plunge. I knew that I wanted our store to offer brands that usually I had to travel several hours to find. I wanted people to come in and feel like they were our most important customer, always. I wanted our store to be clean and simple. I wanted to offer a great selection and bras, panties, slips, hosiery, shapewear, lingerie, sleepwear, loungewear and accessories. I wanted our store to be beautiful and welcoming."
Lackey opened the 2200 square-foot store in 2003, and now has four employees.
"We have been so fortunate with our employees," she said proudly. "Kellie (four years with the store), Katie (three years) and Kendall (hired recently) have all shown such care for my dream. They have been a true asset to our business and the continued growth of our business."
Although the town of Lexington is small, it is a diverse community that is home to Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee University and Washington and Lee Law School, which in turn creates a diverse clientele, which Lackey said includes "young ladies buying their very first bra to college girls to up and coming thirty-somethings to elderly women and everyone in between."
The store focuses on maintaining great, attentive service to keep customer coming back. Discount stores abound in the area and Lackey said it was vital for the store to be able to create a reputation for service that would set it apart from other stores selling intimates.
And with that customer service, a great depth of knowledge about the industry in which they work is also required for Lackey and her staff. Studying trends and translating them for her customers has always been important.
"Since we opened in 2003, the common sense of good foundations has become acceptable conversation. The media has been a fantastic cheerleader for the industry. It is very nice to see women embrace feminine styles again. Our need to wear supportive foundations doesn't mean they have to be boring. I always tell my customers that in the winter, when I'm shoveling snow and removing ice in front of our store, they can rest assure that I may be all fleece on the outside but have on great underwear underneath."
And at Intimate U, that "great underwear" means popular brands including Anita, Spanx, Felina and Wacoal. Anything Hanky Panky is also very hot, Lackey said, as is NuBra, Honeydew, Thea and Anne Lewin. The store also carries men's underwear (Mary Green, Mansilk and Shirley of Hollywood GYZ) and slippers (Karen Neuberger and Patricia Green.)
The store spreads the word about their wide selection of brands and their personal service in a number of ways. Besides radio and print locally, regionally and through the colleges, Lackey is also very involved in the local Chamber of Commerce.
"We also love any excuse to throw a party in our store," she added. "We love to show off our store and celebrate our customers."