Barbara Graves Ready To Give Retail The Slip

Barbara Graves, who for many years has reigned as queen of the high-end lingerie scene, says the last day for her eponymous store, Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions, likely will be June 28.

That means there’s a little time to stop by and wish Graves well, something she says loads of people have been doing since she announced earlier this month that the store, in Breckinridge Village, was going out of business.

She reminisced with your Whispers staff about her 41 years in retail, some of which neither we nor she (client confidentiality — Little Rock is a small town) can share.

“Could I write a book?” Graves asked rhetorically. “Yes. Would I write a book? No, it would make too many people cringe.”

One of the reasons the store was so successful, Graves said, was that it lived by the rule that “what people buy is their business.” Discretion, in other words.

But seriously, she said, “It has been a wonderful journey.”

Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions not only catered to women’s undergarment needs, it also helped many a baffled man find a beautiful gift for his loved one. Perhaps most important, Graves said, was the work the store did providing prostheses for women who had undergone mastectomies.

“That’s a very diversified audience, and we’re proud that we’ve been able to serve them all,” she said.

The store’s mastectomy business is being transferred to Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics of Little Rock, Graves said, and four of her fitters are also going there. Horton’s always served those who had had mastectomies, but out of courtesy to Barbara Graves, Horton’s didn’t aggressively market that service, Graves said.

Horton’s, owned by Gary Horton, is a second-generation enterprise, Graves said, with Horton’s two sons and daughter, Tonya, now working at the family business. “Tonya is absolutely committed and passionate about serving” mastectomy and other surgical patients, Graves said.

Horton’s has four locations in Arkansas and is opening its fifth, in North Little Rock, July 1, Graves said, about the same time her store closes.

Porch Time

Barbara Graves herself has served the community. She’s a past president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and was the first woman president of Little Rock’s Rotary Club, in 1997. She also was a member of the Little Rock Board of Directors, resigning in 2006 to run for mayor in a race won by Mark Stodola.

Graves plans to enjoy her three young grandchildren, particularly since all of them and their parents live in the area. “We want to enjoy them,” she said. “And it’s tough to do that with retail.”

“Little Rock has been very, very good to us,” she said. “The word ‘bittersweet’ comes up over and over again.”

But for now, “everybody’s coming in” to Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions. “They want to express their sorrow that we’ll be gone, but they’re glad that I’m going to be able to sit on the front porch with my grandbabies.”