Elizabeth Bourke and Gertrude at The Pink Ribbon Boutique Photo by Isaac Harrell
After Elizabeth Bourke's husband died eight years ago, she sold their farm and her Charlottesville yarn shop, got a pekepoo dog named Gertrude and moved to Richmond to be closer to her son.
"I tried bridge, and I tried backgammon, but it wasn't for me," Bourke, 78, says. So in 2009, the widow did the unexpected: She opened a lingerie boutique.
"I'm probably the oldest entrepreneur in Richmond," Bourke says with a laugh.
Her Lavender and Lace shop on Libbie Avenue was a high-end lingerie boutique that catered to older women, but "I found out quickly that doesn't sell here," she says of the cashmere robes and expensive chemises.
Bourke had a lot of friends who'd undergone mastectomies for breast cancer and had noticed an increase in customers asking for mastectomy bras, so in April she opened The Pink RibbonBoutique, a lingerie shop for mastectomy and lumpectomy patients. Soon after opening the specialty store at the Westbury Shopping Center, Bourke relocated Lavender and Lace to the building next door, renamed it Derriere de Soie, and added items that would appeal to younger clientele.
A pink plush-velvet loveseat welcomes guests inside The Pink Ribbon Boutique, where blush-painted walls, an open seating area and picture windows add to the alluring atmosphere.
"It's inviting and warm," store manager Tamara Butler says of the shop that sells bras, sleepwear, loungewear and camisoles specially made to be worn with breast prostheses. Adjoining rooms to the shop's main floor are dedicated to lymphedema garments and wigs. Next door, Derriere de Soie carries brands including Stella McCartney, Josie Natori and Verena Designs.
"It's fulfilling to think that you're helping someone," Bourke says. Last year, the shop owner held a fundraiser for Free the Girls, a nonprofit that provides job opportunities to survivors of sex trafficking, and she collected hurricane relief supplies to send to New York.
"It's the best thing I ever did," Bourke says. "It gives me great satisfaction."
For more information, call 282-4679 or visit thepinkribbonboutique.com .