Shop Local: The Ivory Closet
If there’s one thing I know about y’all, it’s that you’re all about supporting locally-owned and homegrown businesses in Memphis. In today’s Shop Local feature, I talk with Alexandra Scharff about her experience starting multiple businesses – including makeup and clothing lines – and opening The Ivory Closet in Memphis in 2012.
Alex (who sometimes goes by Alexandra Nicole) didn’t ask me to mention it, but if you’re a fan of fashion, you should check out her lifestyle blog, City Chic Living and give her, The Ivory Closet, and the Bluff City Lights gals a follow on Instagram.
The Ivory Closet is at 2095 Madison Avenue in Overton Square and carries women’s apparel, beauty supplies, and accessories including jewelry, bags, shoes, and more. Sometimes boutiques have limited hours, but not Ivory Closet. They’re open everyday at 11 a.m. (and at noon on Sundays). Here are the full hours. You can also shop online.
The shop is always full of cute, fashion forward (but totally wearable) clothes and lots of pretty things that I want to buy for everyone (and myself). The other thing about the Ivory Closet is that if you’re totally fashion clueless (aka me) then these people really will walk you through the whole “pick out an outfit” thing that can feel so daunting at times.
Here’s my Q&A with Alex.
Holly: Alex, are you a native Memphian? What’s your background?
Alex: I was born in Memphis but raised in Chicago. I came back in high school so at this point I have lived the majority of my life in Memphis and the Midsouth area. I got my undergrad and graduate degrees at the University of Memphis. I studied International Business abroad at Bournemouth University in Poole England for about a year.
Holly: Tell us about The Ivory Closet.
Alex: I own a women’s fashion and beauty business. Most would look at my shop – The Ivory Closet – from the outside and call it a boutique. Yes…it is a shop. However, to me, my business is more than just a retail store. I founded a brand of treatment/benefit based cosmetics, Adel Amor Cosmetics. We host makeup parties, teach makeup application, and also apply event and wedding makeup in-store! This is the beauty part of the business.
I also founded a brand of slimming tank tops and am working on many other functional fashion pieces to add to my line that will be exclusive to my shop. When customers enter my store, it is important to me that they view it more than just a place to spend money. Our stylists work to understand the clients fashion needs and questions, then work to find an answer.
Whether the need is to look slimmer after the holidays, we have slimming jeans, tanks, and bras, or the need is to add a little pizzazz to the wardrobe, our ladies can take your current style and push it comfortably to the next level so that you are properly accentuating your assets.
Holly: No one can do all this by themselves. Who’s on your team?
Alex: Other than myself, we have a team of super awesome trained fashion sales stylists, including Izabella, Josee, Briana, Angel, Michaela.
Holly: Where did the idea for your businesses come from?
Alex: After frequenting big box stores while working for corporate America, I noticed the lack of service and expertise when it came to fashion. I have always been immersed in the industry as a freelance makeup artist working on fashion shows and commercial work that I knew I had an eye for style. I really wanted to start a business that focuses mainly on customer service and experience.
Holly: Who/what has inspired or influenced you?
Alex: My makeup line came first and a very successful local boutique owner was so gracious to give me a chance by letting me host some makeup parties in her shop and stocking my product on her shelves. When I decided to open up a shop, year later, she was the first person I called to discuss. She was so super awesome and always willing to collaborate. Her motto is, “there is enough business to go around!”
I love business owners like this and have made it a point to follow in her motto by not being competitive and instead promoting other locals in my industry. While it is VERY important to me that my ideas for the boutique concept and brand are different from other local shops, I must give a special thanks to Eryka, owner of Crazy Beautiful, for giving me my first shot at retail with my makeup line. She is very driven and I look up to and respect her girl boss business.
Holly: When did the Ivory Closet open?
Alex: We opened in November 2012 in Harbor Town and have since moved to Overton Square our forever home! We really love being a part of historical midtown!
Holly: How has the response been since you opened?
Alex: We have had an overwhelming response from our community. Midtown really supports their local small business as many of the residents here are small business owners themselves. I love to live and operate a business in a community where keeping money circulating in the local community is encouraged.
Holly: What’s new or coming soon at your business?
Alex: We just installed a Chinese Laundry and Chinese Laundry sister brands shoe department. We are super excited to have the second largest shoe offering in Midtown.
We also are developing several Memphis and Midtown geared graphic tees and sweaters that are exclusive to The Ivory Closet as well as our extremely popular 901 and MEM hats. We can hardly keep them in and often have them on back order.
Holly: What are the greatest challenges you face as entrepreneur?
Alex: Sustainable growth. There are so many avenues for growth. Some quick growth and some that requires time. Not all ways are great ways. I have learned that a lot in my first five years of being in business. We plan to focus on serving our neighborhood and the needs of the fabulous ladies that have come to visit Memphis and Overton Square and continue to shop with us via our online store.
Holly: What do you wish you could tell people? Like, if you could sit down with your customers/potential customers and tell them something or correct a misconception, what would you say?
Alex: Running a local business is tough work. From the outside it seems ideal and easy, but it isn’t all about the “American Dream”. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of persistence, determination, rapid flexibility, adaptation, and dedication. I also believe that you have to genuinely love the community and people that you are serving to be successful. I love Midtown, our customers, and the hustle that is entrepreneurism. Memphis is full of successful entrepreneurs and I am proud to be a business owner in a city that supports the dream.
Holly: Why did you pick Memphis as the place to be an entrepreneur?
Alex: We live here, invest our money here, create memories here, are raising our family here…why not?
The Ivory Closet Overton Square
2095 Madison Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38104
Mon. – Wed. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Thu. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun. noon to 6 p.m.