Melody Howard says it was "necessary" for her to open a boutique in the Cedar Lee Business District.
As a woman who wears plus-sized clothing, she found it difficult to find unique, flattering pieces.
"And especially if you're plus-sized, a lot of women are not comfortable shopping," said Howard, 33.
So Howard left her job at Coventry Food Mart and opened Unique Melodies, an intimate space specializing in dresses and blouses for women sizes 10 to 24.
"It is hard for me to find something to fit my body type," said Howard, who lives in Cleveland Heights and attended Oxford, Monticello and Heights High. "I never thought I would own my own business, but I thought it was time for something new."
Howard's shop at 2180 Lee Road also features jewelry from local designers such as RedStrype and Ju-Wel-Ry. She carries Queen Grace and Kiyonna — brands Clevelanders can't find at many stores. Soon she'll sell IGIGI. She also has a smattering of hand-knitted dresses made by Cleveland designer Stephanie Nunn and shyties — bow ties made as accessories — created by an artist who grew up in Cleveland.
"I wanted to be exclusive. Something that you can't find anywhere else," she said.
But she also wants to be affordable — her prices range from $25 to $125.
"If someone comes in here who just got asked out on a date, I would find them something nice, without worrying if someone else has the same outfit."
She stood in her store and talked about the decor. She painted the walls purple, mounted gold, frame-like clothing racks from the ceiling and gives customers violet gift bags to carry their purchases in.
"I just had an idea in my head of what I wanted," she said. "All of my attention is focused on my customers — that personal attention sets me apart, and me being plus-sized. I am going to be there, standing outside of your dressing room and handing you clothes."
Unique Melodies, 2180 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights. 216-458-9507. www.facebook.com/uniquemelodies1 Hours may be adjusted, but generally the store is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.