Even though Iyishia Jones started her career in corporate America, fashion has always fueled her.
“I was the one who pushed the envelope when it came to the corporate dress code,” Iyishia remembers. “I’d never leave the house without some kind of flair.”
Her love of fashion became so evident, Iyishia’s husband Greg, an entrepreneur himself, encouraged her to turn that passion into a career.
“He was kind of coaching me along the way, and made me think – maybe I should be doing something different.”
In 2014, she was ready to take that leap, and plans for her first boutique began taking shape. However, one piece of the puzzle was missing – its name. In the end, Iyishia said, the name had always been a part of her.
“My husband would continually ask me, ‘Is she?,’ and I would look at him funny and answer, ‘She is!’ I finally realized what he was doing. He was using the four letters in the middle of my name, ISHI.”
For Iyishia, the store’s name stuck, but she says it has come to mean much more than just part of her name.
“When I say ISHI? She is! I mean she is elegant. She is casual. She is anything she wants to be, relating to fashion. That’s what I wanted my business to be all about.”
The couple splits their time between Birmingham and Montgomery and chose Florida’s Rosemary Beach as the first location.
“It was a place our family loved visiting and vacationing, so it just felt right,” Iyishia said. “Once I attended South Walton Fashion Week, that’s when I made my decision, and it ended up working well.”
After several months in business, Iyishia noticed an increasing number of her orders came from folks in Alabama.
“I realized it was time to bring the boutique home. So, in 2015, we opened a second store in Homewood,” said Iyishia.
The business quickly expanded once again with the addition of ISHI? Luxe in Mountain Brook last summer. That location, which is different from the others, mainly carries her custom-designed line of apparel. Pieces sold there, she explained, can be customized or tailored in-store. Iyishia wasn’t finished growing just yet. Because her husband’s job required the family to spend a good deal of time in Montgomery, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a store there as well.
In October 2016, Iyishia opened a fourth location in downtown Montgomery. She says she is excited to be part of a budding business district, following the Capital City’s revitalization efforts.
“When I was little, my mom owned a boutique in downtown Detroit, Michigan, where I grew up,” she recalled. “I remember my parents and others getting dressed up and going downtown to shop. It’s exciting to see that kind of thing happening here.”
Iyishia’s approach to service is also reminiscent of a time gone by – something she says you don’t get shopping online or at a big department store. Instead of salespeople, Iyishia employs stylists.
“When you shop at ISHI?,” she said, “You are immediately greeted by a stylist, who will dress you based on your eye color, body type and personality. You’d be surprised by how many times someone will say ‘that won’t work for me,’ but when we put it all together, they say, ‘Wow, I love it!’”
Additionally, Iyishia says she carries a limited number of each piece and keeps a record of each customer’s special events, “So you don’t have to worry about showing up to an event in the same outfit as someone else,” she explained.
The one-on-one connection to her customers is what makes her excited to wake up and come to work every morning, Iyishia says.
“A longtime customer recently told me she loved shopping with me because of the service and the fashion-forwardness. When you hear something
like that, you know you’re doing something right,” she added.
Shop ISHI? in Homewood at 1736 Reese Street and in Montgomery at 10 Court Square. ISHI Luxe in Mountain Brook is at 2417 Montevallo Road. The Rosemary Beach location, which is closed during the off season, is at 3925 West County Highway 30A.
Story by Melissa Johnson Warnke
Photos by Brandon Robbins