For 31 years, Brenda Meadows has been at the helm of one of Mountain Brook’s most well-established boutiques. Opened in 1946, The Lingerie Shoppe is a mainstay in Mountain Brook Village, offering high-quality undergarments, sleepwear and lingerie to generations of Southern women.
Brenda took over the shop in 1988 with her friend Betty McMahon. After years of volunteering together for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and The Charity League, Brenda and Betty decided to enter the world of retail entrepreneurship. Betty retired in 1998, but Brenda stayed on to continue serving Greater Birmingham and its surrounding areas. Whether you need a bra fitting, bridal gift or Diamond Tea robe, Brenda is confident that The Lingerie Shoppe has you covered. Meet today’s FACE of Birmingham, Brenda Meadows.
You’ve been in the lingerie business for more than 30 years. What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in this industry, and how has your shop stayed strong through the years?
When somebody walks in the front door, and they have an undergarment, a lingerie accessory, sleepwear, or a loungewear need, my goal is to be able to provide them with the best quality merchandise for the best price.
For the 31 years that I’ve been here, we have worked to overcome the idea that shopping in Mountain Brook Village is too expensive. If you want something really special, I can offer you something special. But I also have the everyday underwear that a woman needs.
One of the biggest obstacles I feel now that I have to overcome is online shopping. It’s unfortunate that people who live in our community will still buy things online that they can buy here. But if I say that I don’t want you to shop online, then it is my job to make sure I have what you want when you walk in the door! That makes this business a very customer service-oriented business. When I go to market, I have folders for every vendor I see, and in almost every folder, there are names of people who want a specific thing. So, I literally shop for a person when I go to market.
What sets you apart from a store like Victoria’s Secret?
There’s continuity of the people you can work with when you come in the shop. I work six days a week, and my daughter — who also does my social media — she’s here five days a week, and everybody else is here two or three days a week. It’s the same people. So, when somebody comes in, they can count on knowing that somebody cares about what they’re going to buy, and we want to make sure it fits correctly. And I’m not throwing off Victoria’s Secret. In fact, Victoria’s Secret helps put the idea that bras are important out there. So, I can kind of ride on the wind of their advertising. But I do feel like we can provide a bra that is as good but will hopefully last longer.
Even though you get your merchandise from vendors all over the world, what makes your shop uniquely Southern?
When somebody comes in, if they’re buying something special, we end up knowing where you’re going to wear it and why you’re going. I just think the interaction with customers is the big thing. We count these folks as being friends as well as customers. And I think they feel that way, too. We try to make the shopping experience pleasant, because to a lot of people, buying a bra is like buying a bathing suit, and nobody really enjoys doing that. But hospitality is what makes the difference.
What has kept you in the business for so long? Why do you love it?
What I love is the people. We’ve had experiences with women who have bought bras, who haven’t felt good or thought they looked good in a long time. It’s just a wonderful thing when you see a woman at her most vulnerable, and you can help.
Why is it important for women to have good lingerie?
With undergarments, I feel like a bra that makes you look in place and lifted just makes all the difference in the world in your look and your clothes. And having panties that don’t show panty lines and give you a nice, smooth look is very important. When it comes to sleepwear, it’s important to have something that just feels good. That’s another thing about lingerie — the tactile aspect of it. How it feels is absolutely the foremost quality of the product.
What are some of your favorite things about Birmingham?
I think Birmingham right now has a fabulous food scene, and I have had confirmation of this from vendors in New York. I think our restaurants are wonderful. I think every weekend of the year, you could find a live production of theater or music. People who come here who have a preconceived notion of the South are really amazed at how beautiful it is — and that we all wear shoes. I feel like Birmingham really wants to be a very inclusive and very open community as far as accepting anybody who wants to live here or visit here.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
We’re active in our church. We go to Dawson (Family of Faith), and I sing in the choir.
And I love the theater. My daughter Julie is the house manager at Virginia Samford Theatre and is an actress. She’s directed or acted in plays in a lot of venues in Birmingham, so the theater is very special to me. Red Mountain Theatre Company, Theatre Downtown, and ETC, Extemporaneous Theatre Company — we always enjoy their productions. South City Theatre is in Pelham, and she has done some things there, too. There are just theaters all over Birmingham. People have so many opportunities to see good productions.
Do you have any favorite restaurants?
We always enjoy going out to eat. We love Bottega. At Bottega, we like the chicken scaloppini. Highlands Bar & Grill is also always a wonderful place, Satterfield’s is great, and Daniel George and Olexa’s are places in Mountain Brook Village that we enjoy. At Ollie Irene, I love the trout. We try to be a part of the Mountain Brook community.
What advice would you offer other small business owners?
In general, I try not to lose my focus and start carrying things that really do not relate to the mission of my shop, which is lingerie, loungewear and sleepwear. My best advice is to remain focused. I think that small shops do get into problems when they try to cover too many different products. I think it’s better to go more in-depth.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Coffee, Aquaphor, and mints
Thank you, Brenda! And thanks to Eric & Jamie Photography for the great photos!
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