As you walk into L Squared Boutique you can almost hear the Cheers theme song urging you along. This mother-daughter duo makes every customer feel like a celebrity, with catered shopping experiences, star-studded style, and unforgettable charm.
Interview Courtney Perkins // Photography ashley sellner
LeeAnn Little and her mother Susan Little can be found among the copper racks of clothing, tall ceilings, dark hardwood floors and vintage accessories at L Squared boutique in historic downtown Mooresville. The product of two generations who have distinct talent for styling women, the moment you walk into the impeccably decorated and cozy shop, this duo is ready to offer a customized shopping and styling strategy to transform you into your best self.
Tell us about the journey of L Squared Boutique. Most young girls enjoy playing dress up as a child – it so happens I spent my childhood in my grandmother’s store Dot’s in Maiden, N.C. I donned the sequin tube tops during dress up and admired the stylish women who came to shop. Dot’s thrived in Maiden for 40 years. When it came time for my grandmother to retire, my mother Susan Little moved Dot’s to Hickory in an exciting new venture with plans to expand our offerings to our clientele. I worked part-time there while solidifying my plans to study Fashion Merchandising in Atlanta. With my education under my belt and back in North Carolina, I drove through downtown Mooresville and one month later had a 500-square-foot store. In January of 2011, this wonderful space across the street became available. My mother had just closed our Hickory store, and we needed more room. I knew it was the next step, and in three weeks I was opening a new store in my dream space.
Can you tell us about the name of the boutique? How has it changed over the years? Of all places, L Squared initially came about from a high school marketing class. I was asked to create a business plan and came up with a boutique with my friend Lindsay.
I remember our marketing teacher disliked and questioned our name choice. Years later on a trip to California, I saw a sign hanging titled L Squared Salon. I took it as a sign and knew I was ready to change the name from Dot’s to reflect the exciting changes that had happened over the last five years. I feel it fits because originally it was born out of LeeAnn and Lindsay, and now reflects LeeAnn Little – a long line of ‘L’ last names.
How do you select your pieces? What are some of the qualities you look for? I like to see high-end fashion and watch how it transforms into ready to wear, affordable pieces. Couture runway shows inspire fabric choice and patterns that always make their way into the trade shows in Atlanta for buyers. That’s the fun part – shopping for the next season and knowing I’m bringing the best current styles to L Squared. Routinely I can be found scouring magazines, online fashion sites and European websites to keep up to date and find new clothing and accessory lines. Discovering quality lines that are different from most shops is very important to me – that’s what makes a boutique special! Finding those pieces that aren’t mainstream, that are out of someone’s usual “style box”, yet create compliment after compliment. Women enjoy the exclusivity of select pieces and I love bringing that to L Squared.
Does L Squared cater to a particular clientele? What does L Squared offer that makes it one-of-a-kind? I believe L Squared caters to a variety of ages. In the store, I can show a 50-something customer how they can style pieces that a 20-something would wear. It’s all about the versatility. We have clothing and accessories specific to a younger crowd, but many options can work for everyone when styled. Most importantly my goal is to have L Squared offer wearable, cool, flattering clothing that make my customers look good. I want to see that confidence with their new purchase when they walk out that door. What separates L Squared from other boutiques is myself and my mother, Susan – we are the only two people in here on a day-to-day basis. We give the best attention and care that you could ask for in a store. We are also brutally honest. If something doesn’t work, I will tell you and give you something else that will be better. A lot of people will sell you things just to sell – we aren’t like that. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, our sense of camaraderie in downtown Mooresville will kick in and I will direct them to other local shops that may be able to help.
L Squared’s styling services go beyond the boutique walls. What else do you offer? To create a perfect fit with ease, we have in-house alterations available just upstairs provided by Tatyana James of TVT Tailoring. We can also deliver outfits if someone is too busy. I’m proud of our over-the-top customer service and personal shopping component. When I get calls like, “I have an event tonight; I need a great cocktail dress,” I ask questions such as what size, is there something already in mind, shoes, accessories? Something that you’re trying to base the whole look around? We come to you and bring options – even if that’s at the nail salon where you only have 15 minutes.
We also offer a closet service where you call us to set up an appointment. My mother and myself can sort through your closet and really help you identify which items are past their prime, which items define your personal style, how to maximize your wardrobe, and what is consignable. L Squared has a small section of consigned items. We are happy to take particular items off your hands if we feel they are a good fit.
Could you describe your personal style? Laid-back, boho-chic. There are also times when I like to throw a girly, rock-n-roll twist. I love dresses. I’m always layered with different pieces, from tanks and sweaters and wearing at least 10 bracelets. I tend to sport the same armload of bracelets for about three months and then change it up.
What advice would you give to people who are trying to get into the fashion industry? First and foremost, understand what you want to do. Understand where you’re going. If you’re looking to open up a store, understand what it’s really all about. Get involved in internships – production, styling, working markets. It’s the best way to figure out what it all really entails and what area you enjoy. You can also pick a storeowner’s brain to understand all aspects. It can look very fun but it’s very hard work – nitty and gritty, sometimes even mean. I encourage people who want to get into the fashion business to have their own personality. Don’t piggyback on something that’s already been done. Be different because there are so many small boutique stores; it’s a challenge to stay up, current and changing. Don’t follow; lead.
What is the most important thing you have learned over the course of starting and running your own business? Creating great relationships with not only your customers but your surrounding businesses as well. We can work together. If I don’t have it, I can send them somewhere else locally instead of a department store. You can’t just cater to yourself, you must think about every buyer, every age. Learn who your customer is: what are their limits, where does their comfort zone end? What is their lifestyle? Get to know your customer and what they truly need. We find out a lot about them when we go into their closet. A mother of two who is busy all the time may be a much more casual dresser who needs very few dressy things and more stylish basics.
In what ways would you like to see L Squared evolve? For people to come in and shop local, and for those people to spread the word about their experience. I’d love to be more branded – not to open five locations, but make L Squared’s current location a shopping destination in North Carolina.
It seems like there are often events at L Squared boutique – what are some of the fun ways you like to stay involved in the community of Mooresville? We love to host late night shopping events where we bring in outside businesses – wine vendors, bakery items, jewelry vendors, and spa vendors with discounted material that evening. We do corporate shopping days and deals: show us your badge for a discount. Twice a year, L Squared and surrounding stores and boutiques in Mooresville, Cornelius, and Huntersville gather in one big location and have a warehouse sale – keep your eyes out for it. We enjoy throwing in-home parties where we will take 2-3 racks of clothing and set up shop in your home and you can invite a few girlfriends over. We’ll bring the wine and you can shop right there.
148 N. Main St, Downtown Mooresville, North Carolina
This interview was conducted late 2012.