Opening Forever A Diva on Main Street in Erwin took a leap of faith on Lisa Frosley’s part. But Lisa is long on faith and short on pessimism.
When she thought of opening a business, she envisioned a shop, painted pretty, pretty pink with a beautiful chandelier, where women could come to feel good about themselves.
What she had was a rundown building in need of a complete overhaul. “This was a train wreck,” she said of the building. “There was more than 20 years of water damage,” and she had little money to complete the renovation.
“I don’t know if it’s courage or stupidity that I’m actually stepping into this,” she said when she decided to move her small clothes shop from a downtown emporium to the building at 102 Main St. “You grit your teeth, close your eyes and just jump. If you’re passionate enough and you want something bad enough, you find a way.”
First Lisa found her way to the dump, where she rummaged through cast-off items that could be used in the renovation.
“God made some people brain surgeons and this is what he gave me,” Lisa said of her ingenuity. “All my life I’ve turned trash into treasures.”
Discarded windows were used to make a bathroom ceiling; the three-way mirror was made from old doors and inexpensive mirrors.
For her chandelier, she found a “basic Williamsburg base” for $5 at a thrift store, added industrial wire “bent like sticks to look like a branch in spring ready to bloom,” and chandelier crystals she had collected for years. “I never pass up chandelier crystals,” she said.
She and her husband ripped out, scraped, sanded, nailed up, put down and painted every inch of the space. When she wasn’t working on the renovation, Lisa painted other people’s houses to earn money to put back into the business.
“It took us 70 days and nights to renovate this store,” she said. “The first 60 days were a labor of love, the last 10 were just labor.”
When it came time to paint the interior, she chose pink because it was the color of her bedroom when she was a little girl playing dress up with her friends.
And having fun with clothes — good quality, inexpensive, gently worn clothes — is what Forever A Diva is all about, Lisa said.
“I get the women to play dress up. I help them find clothes they will actually wear. If you don’t love it, you’re not going to feel pretty in it,” she said.
“My little store is my playhouse. It’s my way of getting to make some money to do what I really love and that’s just being around women of all ages, to be an encouragement to them and they are an encouragement to me.”
Lisa carries everything from blue jeans to evening gowns in sizes 0 to 2X. Through relationship she has cultivated with women throughout the Tri-Cities, she is able to carry brands like Talbots, Chico’s, Kasper, Ann Taylor and Lucky Jeans. By stocking “recycled” clothes, Lisa said she is able to pass on significant savings to her customers.
“I sell Kasper or Ann Taylor suits for less than $40. They retail for $250 to $400,” she said.
Lucky Brand jeans that retail for more than $100 sell for $24 a pair.
There are also accessories like handbags, sterling silver jewelry and shoes. “I have a fetish for shoes. I love Italian shoes,” Lisa said with a laugh. “Italian shoes make me shake.”
She recently expanded into home furnishings and floral design, reworking unwanted and unloved materials into something new and beautiful.
It’s not surprising to find that her overarching goal in opening the store is to help women discover their best selves.
“It’s amazing how many women can’t see how beautiful they are,” she said. “I help them find clothes to bring out the assets and camouflage the liabilities. In the right-fitting outfit, standing in front of the mirror, their shoulders go back. I love the moment when you see her look at herself like she’s her own best friend.”
Forever A Diva is located at 102 Main St. in Erwin. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 735-9196.
Jan Hearne is Tempo editor for the Johnson City Press. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.