Zelle Brown’s passion for fashion led to the opening of one of Wilmington’s most loved stores, ZIA Boutique
By CAROLINE GOBBLE Photos by KELLY STARBUCK PHOTOGRAPHY
Zestful, zealous, full of zing. This is ZIA, a boutique that reflects the style, passion, and inspiration of its owner Zelle Brown Wiggins. For as long as she can recall, Wiggins has aspired to be a business owner and achieved the goal of opening a retail store in 2017.
Prior to opening the boutique, she had a career in advertising and marketing, but also ran a fashion and lifestyle blog on the side. “I had a lot of people reach out asking for suggestions on what to wear to a summer wedding, ideas for a date night outfit, etc.,” explains Wiggins. “I finally decided that I would love nothing more than to combine my excitement for marketing with my passion for the fashion industry and began the integral planning stages of ZIA.”
Meaning “light,” ZIA is also a nickname for Zelle. “When my cousin was younger, she wasn't able to say "Zelle," so she called me Zia-Belle. The name stuck, and now all of my college girlfriends, and many people who stop in the store, still call me Zia,” explains Wiggins.
Founded not only out of a passion for style, ZIA is also founded on family values from moral support to buying trips to hanging light fixtures. “Though I'm the one here on the day-to-day, I can't imagine running this business without them,” says Wiggins. She also explains that her love of shopping with her mother influences the pieces she selects for the store. “Our pieces can appeal to a variety of ages, and we could have an 18-year old and a 65-year-old shopping in the store on the same day.”
Finding and sourcing brands for the store is not always easy, but it is one of the things Wiggins loves most. “I can remember my first conversation with a brand rep who reached out before I even had a physical location secured, and we talked for an hour and a half while she gave me the ins and outs of the retail industry,” says Wiggins. “Her willingness to answer my questions is something I'm forever thankful for.”
ZIA carries a few brands that are owned and operated by women. LaRoque, based in Columbia, SC, is a brand that clients love seeing in store and the relationship Wiggins formed with the designer is so unique, in that she can reach out directly to her with any questions and client requests. The store also carries Southern Frock, a North Carolina-based brand. “As we continue to grow, I'm excited to continue to showcase female entrepreneurs who have an incredible product,” says Wiggins.
Wiggins and her staff offer one-on-one styling appointments, however, each person who walks through the door is offered a personalized shopping experience. “Once we have an idea of what you're shopping for, we love the opportunity to pull items that we think would work for your occasion,” explains Wiggins. “I also love helping our clients create a ‘capsule’ wardrobe. When I worked in more of a corporate environment, I felt like I had two different wardrobes: what I wore for work and what I wore for play. Instead, it's better to think about the many ways your wardrobe can be repurposed.” ZIA staff members enjoy helping customers identify the void in their closets and creating multiple styling options depending on lifestyle. The boutique is also a great place for brides to shop and find jewelry for bridesmaids or a little white dress for their rehearsal dinner. Brides receive a special discount through their engagement.
Wiggins truly values relationships she has formed throughout the process of becoming a business owner. “I've had the opportunity to network with so many other female entrepreneurs, and that is so exciting and empowering,” she says. “I now have friends that have become close confidantes, and those friendships were created based on the camaraderie that I've found from business ownership.” She also enjoys opportunities to partner with other local businesses and entrepreneurs for various events, including hosting other vendors in the store and creating a pop-up shop with ZIA products off-site.
And, of course, the customers that walk through the door each day and the relationships she forms with them are integral to Wiggins’s passion and zest for being a retailer. “I love nothing more than chatting about someone's day while helping them find the perfect dress to wear to a wedding their attending or just a t-shirt and jeans combo for hanging out with their family,” she says. “It's such an exciting feeling to share the pieces that I love with the people of Wilmington - and I appreciate any and every opportunity to share my passion with those around me.” 910-679-4101, www.shopziaboutique.com