Submitted by Kimberly Berger, owner of Lion’s Lair Boutique in Islamorada, Florida
I started Lion’s Lair as an airbrush artist, painting on everything from motorcycles to murals to t-shirts to swimwear. Due to the store’s tropical location, hand painted swimwear became a very popular item. In 1996 as a 26 year old, DDD-cup entrepreneur, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one that didn’t fit in mainstream sizes and size matched swimwear sets. My customers were requesting mix and match separates and larger top and bottom sizes in a market that had yet to recognize the demand. So I launched my own locally made swimwear line. The response was huge and I expanded to double my store’s square footage in 2002.
In 2003, I became pregnant and gained 85 lbs. With such a large weight gain, it was difficult to tell if I was pregnant or just extremely overweight. I soon experienced firsthand how shunned and ignored the average plus size customer is. It was at this point that I decided to add plus sizes to Lion’s Lair’s specialty mix. I wanted to cater to all women who have difficulty shopping in mainstream stores due to their curves, and offer a personalized shopping experience to every woman that walked through her doors, regardless of their size.
By 2006, Lion’s Lair offered over 20 different swimwear brands, and a variety of clothing to their customers. Every Lion’s Lair customer was given a personal consultation and was professionally fit. Adding bras and lingerie to the mix was the next logical step. In 2008 they we once again expanded to our present 4000 sq. ft.
I strongly believe that it is not the retailer’s place to dictate to the customer what they should buy, but rather the retailer’s responsibility to listen to and serve the customer. It is important to enhance the customer’s shopping experience, to educate them about the product and enable them to make informed decisions. A retailer focused on listening to its customer is given the opportunity to act as a representative for them and express their wish list to the manufacturers. If these services are provided the sales will follow and a loyal customer base is created.
As a result Lion’s Lair has become known for its fitting expertise, its high standards in customer service and as an authority in the world of swimwear, lingerie and clothing for the well-endowed woman. I retired my airbrushes in 2004 but continue to use my artistic eye and creative flair in the development of fashion forward and figure flattering styles for my hard-to-fit clientele. We were the first to introduce the ‘swim bra’, an underwire garment that is designed to be worn under a tankini shell. The ‘swim bra’ offers the larger cup customer the same support as a bra but is made out of fabrics designed to get wet. I shared the concept with the designers at Eveden and shortly thereafter Elomi Swimwear was born.
Designers from all over the world come to visit and consult with both my staff and myself, believing that we have truly become the voice of the consumer. Lion’s Lair has become a destination store to woman seeking hard to find sizes, and an exceptional shopping experience. Lion’s Lair has a website (www.LLSwim.com) but we have chosen not to have a shopping cart. Due to the nature of swimwear and lingerie sizing and its inconsistency between brands, we prefer to speak directly to our web customers. This enables us to provide the same level of service remotely as we do in person and it ensures that the customer receives the correct size the first time.
Lion’s Lair evolved into what it is today due to my own body type challenges. Regardless of her build, a woman tends to look in the mirror and dislike what she sees. Compound that with not fitting in the cookie cutter sizes offered by mainstream stores and shopping can quickly become a nightmare. However, by maintaining a selection of over 220 sizes in swimwear, lingerie and clothing, and providing one-on-one service, Lion’s Lair makes shopping enjoyable again. My staff and I are passionate about our mission to provide superior customer service, exceptional quality and the perfect fit for real, and beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. Paradise for the hard to fit in a tropical location: sounds like a good reason to visit the Florida Keys to me.
Lion’s Lair is located at
8126 Overseas Highway
Islamorada, Florida 33036
305 664 9922