• Lillie Burke

Sweet shopping at Local Honey

As you cross the street from Belmont’s campus to the trendy side of Belmont Boulevard, you take in familiar sights. You see old friends such as Bongo, PM, and ChaCha, but today, your eyes lock with a new sight. You see the building that used to be the home of Venus & Mars, but a new sign graces the windowsill. Curious, you make your way up the cobblestone path and make out the words Local Honey, placed on a simple white board. You have to slightly jiggle the doorknob to open the door, as if the house wants to announce your entrance.

As you enter, you see quick glimpses of whimsical floral patterns and bold colors and you hear a voice call a greeting from the adjoining room. As you walk toward the friendly voice, you see a petite blonde sitting behind a table with a pile of clothes placed in front of her. This is Shea Steele, owner of Nashville thrift store/boutique Local Honey.

Steele’s store was brought to life in a unique way. She was taking time off to study photography at Watkins College of Art and Design and began working retail. It was here she met and fell in love with fashion and decided to take her love of clothes and turn it into a business. Steele is a die-hard yard sale, thrift store kind of girl, but she was finding few stores in the Nashville area that served the 20-something demographic. Most boutiques catered to  women between the ages of 35-50. So what did Steele do in a situation like this? She started her own store.

Local Honey was born off 12th Avenue and stayed there for a number of years. It got some good publicity when it was featured in “Elle” and “Nylon” Magazines.

In late 2010, Shea received word from Karen Elson, the owner of Venus & Mars, that she was looking to lease her building at 2900 Belmont Blvd. Steele thought the opportunity was too good to turn down, and Local Honey moved.

As well as being passionate about fashion, it is also important to Steele to support the local community. This passion turned into another area of specialty for the store.

“Local Honey’s concept is for a person to find their individual style and find it within the community by supporting local designers,” Shea said. “Most of the clothes here are one of a kind and handmade. Not only are you getting a quality item, but also a unique one.”

Local Honey specializes in casual vintage clothing, and partners with local designers and dealers for the majority of her merchandise. Steele herself has two of her own lines that she sells in the store. The first is White Rabbit and the second is Alter Ego, which she co-designs with another employee.

Local Honey offers more than just clothes, however. If you go upstairs, you will find a sewing school called Stitch. Stitch offers sewing classes from beginning to advanced levels that are taught by Alexia Abegg. They offer denim-making courses as well as quilt making lessons.

In addition to clothing and sewing classes, Local Honey is also known for its fashion shows.

“They began last summer and were so well attended. After the show was over, people were having so much fun they didn’t want to leave! That’s when we knew we would have to make this a seasonal event,” Steele said.

Included in the fashion show events are live concerts featuring local bands. The Local Honey extravaganzas are free, and the next one is scheduled for March 13 to show the Spring 2011 collections.

A common misconception about Local Honey, though, is the price of their goods. The owner understands that most people are on a budget and can’t afford to spend extravagant sums on a new dress. Local Honey keeps most items between $20-$50.

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