Ever since Homer’s Odyssey hit the ancient bestseller lists, “Circe” has meant a sorceress who turns men into beasts.
In one part of America, however, it has a nicer connotation.
“Circe was a Southern slang term my mother used when I was growing up in Raleigh. It means a special treat,” Jennifer Smith recalled. “She would bring home a circe for me as a surprise.”
A good way to use that word in business came up about a decade ago while she was chatting with friend Laura Lee Boone, a Louisville native.
They first met at soccer games when their sons, Holt Smith and Jimmy Boone, were little. The boys are about 13 now, and their mothers have begun their ninth year as owners of Circe (3630 Brownsboro Road), a women’s clothing and accessories store.
“Back then, at the end of 2003, there weren’t as many women’s clothing stores. Several carried beautiful tailored clothing, and you could find preppy Nantucket style,” Laura said. “We wanted to bring more contemporary lines here.”
Circe carries more than 50 lines of designer clothes discovered on buying trips to New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, including Rachel Zoe, Tibi, Alice & Trixie, Rebecca Taylor, Tracy Reese, and Citizens of Humanity. Shoes to complement outfits come from top names such as Alberto Fermani and Loeffler Randall.
“Rachel Zoe is fairly new for us; she mixes bohemian with tailored in a way that’s wearable for most people,” Jennifer said. “My personal favorites include A.L.C., which originally was for rock stars. The designer, Andrea Lieberman, gives her clothes an edgy look, but they’re also clean, feminine, and never boring.”
Several years ago, Circe added the expertise of makeup artist Sloan Winters, whose beauty bar features products by Kevyn Aucoin, Juvena, Paul & Joe, and other popular brands.
The store schedules parties for women who want to learn Sloan’s secrets for healthy, beautiful skin — and perhaps create a special look to go with a wedding gown or other special dress.
Laura and Jennifer believe that their partnership works because they respect each other’s areas of expertise.
“I’m more the business end, dealing with vendors and purchase orders. Jennifer spends her time with the customers and the clothes,” Laura said. “I don’t tell her how to dress her mannequins, and she doesn’t tell me how to address our vendors.”
Circe’s clothes and accessories are selected to appeal to women of all ages, including teenagers — with prices to suit most budgets.
The store caters to businesswomen as well as to mothers who bring their daughters. Bridesmaids stop in when they tire of what’s in bridal shops, and students looking for prom dresses will soon start arriving.
“The Louisville market still tends to be more conservative than some, so we keep that in mind,” Laura said. “We carry Diane von Furstenberg, who appeals to women in their forties to sixties. Her wrap dresses are timeless, but she also has trendier styles — pretty, not as flowy, more fitted.”
Jennifer just returned from a New York buying trip where she felt “energized” by several trends: glamorous beading and embroidery on dresses and tops; leather pencil skirts, miniskirts and trim on cuffs and collars; and fur galore, whether real or faux.
And fashion appears to be moving away from dresses, in favor of separates.
“When we opened Circe, the risk made us nervous,” Laura said. “But we think our timing was good, and Louisville has been very responsive to us. It’s been a positive experience for us, and we hope it is for our customers, too.”
Circe, 3630 Brownsboro Road (in the Chenoweth Plaza), opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and at 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit www.shopcirce.com or phone 502.894.0095.