Laura Lamoureux grew up in Blacksburg, the daughter of two teachers. She was always determined, with a job and her own money from the time she was 12. Laura’s paper route funded shopping trips to the hippie stores in town, where her dream to “grow up and own a boutique” began.
Laura’s mother insisted that she go to college and learn how to run a business before diving into shop ownership, so off she went to Texas. Two years later, she returned to the mountains she loved with an associate’s degree in fashion merchandising from Bauder Fashion College.
While working as a waitress she heard about Snoopers, a new antique mall in Wytheville. To have a booth, Snoopers required you to sell antiques or handmade goods. Laura secured a $1,000 bank loan and went to Mexico on her first buying trip. Eight friends accompanied her, offering moral support. She returned with handmade jewelry, clothing, rugs and other items to fill her first “store,” a little 10’ x 12’ booth. Laura set her goal to work for three years and then rent a larger booth or move into her own store. Her determination never diminished.
Opening near a college would provide a consistent customer base, so Laura investigated Blacksburg and Radford. Radford had two things going for it—there was no hippie store, and the rent was less expensive.
Two of the original Mexican distributors still provide merchandise to Laura. She no longer makes buying trips to Mexico, instead relying on trade shows to meet new suppliers. Now, Lamour’s depends upon six primary connections for products.
Laura has been living her dream for 35 years, selling hippie wares to locals and college kids. She has raised two sons in the business—literally—Joey started going to work with his mom when he was 10 days old! When he was seven, younger brother Jeremy came along. Born with incense in his blood, Jeremy has always wanted to run the store. Eventually, he pursued an associate’s degree in business at New River Community College and now works full-time at the shop.
After high school, Joey spread his wings, attending college at NRCC, George Mason, and Radford University. He works with State Farm in Powhatan and returns when his help is needed.
In the early days, Radford had lots of foot traffic. Students walked to shop, eat and drink. When RU added food vendors on campus, foot traffic declined.
In the ‘90s, students hung tapestries on every wall in their dorm rooms and burned incense and candles. A new fire marshal limited tapestry coverings to 25%. Eventually, the rule changed to 10% and incense and candles were banned. Around 2008, a student caused a fire by placing a tapestry on top of a halogen lamp, so now only small tapestries are allowed. Thus, most of her sales in those areas now are customers other than college students. Laura saw this change coming by listening to her faithful patrons.
There have been times when she was the only business open in her block. With local support – and more determination, Lamour’s has survived and thrived.
The Bohemian store has an eclectic inventory, including 100% hemp backpacks. Laura not only follows trends, but she also talks and listens to her customers. She learns from students who shop in the store. “I am still learning every day. It is an honor to live my dream and serve the public in the New River Valley,” she states.
When asked how the business had changed since opening, Laura confides: “The best thing to come along is Square!” Square, Inc. [now Block, Inc.], founded in 2009, is a payment processing platform designed for small and medium businesses. Since Laura occasionally sets up off-site, processing charges remotely is a huge benefit.
Among Lamour’s most popular items are jewelry, crystals, oils and incense. Merchandise is imported from co-ops in Nepal, Peru, India and China, as well as American-made. She also markets high-quality items created by RU art students and the local artisan community. Lamour’s carries an inclusive selection of religious trinkets and artifacts, like crosses, Buddhas and Celtic crosses.
Laura regularly updates her Google listing. When she learned how to check the monthly analytics and compare the traffic from the first month, she relates: “I was in shock! I keep it updated because it is so important.”
The boutique has an ever-changing inventory. Their website is up, and Lamour’s continues adding to the selections. Social media posts often feature the mascot, Roy B. Hound. And why not? Roy is quite photogenic! Laura enjoyed having her first intern last year, and she has another one this year. They bring a fresh perspective and tech-savvy ideas to the store.
Talking about tomorrow, Laura dreams aloud about the day Joey moves closer to Radford and joins Jeremy in the store. Dreams are being sent out there into the universe. One day…
Text and Photos by Jo Clark
Jo Clark was a flower child, back in the day, so she felt right at home in Lamour’s Boutique. Follow her adventures on Instagram @JoGoesEverywhere or on Facebook at Have Glass, Will Travel.
1023 East Main Street,
(540) 577 – 0571