The Purple Iris Boutique is a resale boutique for women’s clothing. We carry everything from sneakers to ball gowns. We are very particular/ upscale and try to take only the best of what there is to offer.
They also carry jewelry that is locally crafted. They try to promote local artists – women that make items. When they opened the store, their mission was “Women helping women”. Their vision was to help women dress their best for less, at the same time helping women who are selling their clothing .
How long have you been in business?
We have been in business for 9 years.
What has been the evolution of you as a business owner/non-profit founder?
Georgann Oman: I have always loved clothes. I remember in texture and color what I was wearing on a certain day or what my mother was wearing. That’s how I think and remember special moments in life.
In the 1980’s, I opened the Children’s Shop in my home (when my girls were little). That was a resale boutique for children’s clothing. I did that for 12 years . LOVED IT! I decided to go back into the workforce to do something about my Social Security fund and went to work for a non -profit in Ithaca, for about 10 years, in a program that was similar to the Dress For Success project.
I prepared to open The Purple Iris Boutique on the side and spoke with Irene on the phone about the puppy, Iris,I had just gotten and may plans to take her to this shop I plan on opening”. She called me right back and said “Do you want a business partner”? I said “YES I DO”! 9 years have flown by quickly.
Irene Fitzpatrick: I first met Georgann at the age of 15, and we immediately became best friends. Through the years raising 3 children (including 15 foster) Georgann and I would often go weeks before we could even converse on the phone, we were always able to pick up where we left off. We really are more like sisters!
With no retail experience, I offered to jump in with both feet. What we found out is that we complement each other in the business world. I have been surrounded by boys my whole life, so for me, the shop has helped me reconnect with my female self.
I have enjoyed all my job experiences which include childcare, nutrition education & nursing, however these have been my favorite years sharing The Purple Iris with my sister/friend and all the Woman who support us, and have become like family.
We opened a little boutique at 703 S. Main St. in Horseheads, just down the way. We were in there 3 months. The business just boomed! Beyond our wildest dreams! Luckily this storefront was open and we moved in here.
Are there any misconceptions about you or your business?
Georgann: There are some people who will not wear used clothing. That’s ok, but there may be some misconceptions of what “used clothing” is. Many things are brand new with the tags still on.
Unfortunately we don’t sell everything that comes through our doors….items that do not sell we send on to charity. Sometimes people are disappointed that everything does not sell.
Irene:Many people who stop in to our Boutique for the first time, are very surprised with the Quality & Variety we have to offer.
What have been your greatest achievements?
Georgann: Being a mom and a Grandmother. Having my own business has allowed me the opportunity and freedom to spend precious time with them. It is a little more flexible than if I worked for someone else.
Being successful in business 9 years later and having touched so many lives is also a pretty big achievement that I am very proud of.
Irene: I don’t feel like I have one great achievement, I always have tried my best with any endeavor I’ve pursued. Growing my circle of friends, and taking care of myself just might be my greatest achievement.
Talk about your Mission to help women.
Georgann: I believe that every day we achieve Women Helping Women. Women walk in this store and it is a one-to-one situation here. It is the old fashioned shopping. We get to know the women that come in so well. We know about their grandchildren, their husbands, their struggle with cancer. We know all about their lives. They come in here to talk and get support. The clothing is just the trappings. It’s really about the personal connection.
Irene: I don’t feel like I have one great achievement, I always have tried my best with any endeavor I’ve pursued. Growing my circle of friends, and taking care of myself
Just might be my greatest achievement.
Talk about your Mission to help women.
Georgann: I believe that every day we achieve Women Helping Women. Women walk in this store and it is a one-to-one situation here. It is the old fashioned shopping. We get to know the women that come in so well. We know about their grandchildren, their husbands or their personal struggle with cancer. We are honored to know all about their lives. They come in here to talk and get support. The clothing is just” the trappings”. It’s really about the personal connection.
Irene: Everyone who walks through our door, help us succeed in our mission, we are a place where old friends reconnect, strangers greet, and stories are shared. We aren’t just helping Women, we are all helping each other.
Have you had any stumbling blocks?
When we opened our second shop in Hanover Square, I knew it was too close. I would not do that again. We were doing so well at the time and wanted to expand. We thought about Watkins Glen and Owego. My mom was not well and I needed to be in town to take care of her so we decided to open in Hanover Square. I knew in my gut that was a mistake. We MUST listen to our guts.
She passed about a year and a half ago at 96. It was the same week we closed our second shop. Her advice to me was “Never stop working. Don’t sit down. Keep going”. So that is what I plan on doing.
Irene: The whole project was so new for me, I second guessed myself a lot in the early years .Fortunately Georgann has been a great Mentor, and I actually found I have more to offer than I realized!
If you could have a Do-Over in anything, what would that be (if anything)?
Georgann: Due to the physical aspect of this business, I would start this sooner when I was younger. I believe the community was ready for this type of business earlier
Irene: Actually I feel everything happens for a reason, and there is always a lesson to be gained. If I had Do-Overs, I wouldn’t be who I am or be where I am now. A very knowledgeable woman, stopped to see us in the early years ( a stranger at that time).
She spoke about how we were doing exactly what we should be doing, at that moment and together.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Georgann: I hope I am still standing here and still enjoying this business and my customers. I do love it!
Irene: Enjoying life every day, sharing laughter and tears, and continued Good Health at The Purple Iris.