Editor’s note: This story was provided by the Flossmoor Community Relations Committee. It is part of a longer Black History Month series that paired local black-owned business people with their counterparts from history. This story features Kelly Evans, founder of Love, Noa Boutique, 1044 Sterling Ave. in Flossmoor, with Anne Cole Lowe, designer of the late Jackie Kennedy’s 1953 wedding dress.
What inspired you to start your business?
My now-5-year-old daughter.
I love having a daughter; she is so much fun to dress! I couldn’t find the quality and the unique styles that I found in boutiques in New York and other places. I felt there was a gap in kids’ clothing since Lil Pals and Little Colony left the area.
I am all about girl power; my company focuses on women and girls.
Two things encouraged me to open Love, Noa: I wanted a place where little girls could feel good about themselves and moms could remember how awesome girls are. It is truly my passion project!
Why did you choose Flossmoor to open your business?
I have always loved downtown Flossmoor. It has that small town feel that you see in the Hallmark movies! I wanted somewhere I could meet people and really know them.
I’m a social worker by training. I need that interpersonal contact. For years, my brother, Malcolm Thomas, and I stalked this area because I wanted to open a shoe store. I just happened to ride down Sterling one day last summer and saw “For Rent” signs; I jumped at the opportunity. I have never been happier.
As a business owner, what is your proudest civil rights moment or memory?
There are so many proud moments. Black people decided that they were going to create the narrative for their communities and force those in control to listen and make change happen.
The togetherness for a community purpose bigger than their individual issues was something we can all learn from.
I was born in 1966, so I don’t have first-hand memories of the civil rights movement. Both my mother and step-father were city aldermen and extremely civically engaged and connected to the political officials in Gary, Indiana.
I distributed literature for her and other candidates she supported. I remember listening to the impassioned political conversations of my parents and their friends. As a result, my sister and I work in the political and community organizing field.
What has history taught you that could help someone else who is interested in starting a business?
No barriers exist that can keep you from doing what you want if you want it.
The most awesome story I know is of Black Wall Street. If you think about the climate in which these businesses thrived, you will be in awe.
This was during Reconstruction. We had just gotten through slavery and black folk started their own businesses.
I read about John Merrick, a black barber who was born into slavery and once emancipated, amassed a great amount of wealth by owning several barbershops. I know there are challenges we face as business owners of color, but if former slaves can build successful businesses, the only thing that limits our success is ourselves!
As it relates to your business, what is your favorite quote or saying?
“Just Do It.” — Nike slogan
As it relates to Black History Month, what is your favorite quote, moment or memory?
I tell my husband daily, due to this totally insane political time that we are living through, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass
Lowe was the first world-renowned African American fashion designer to create dresses for socialites and brides and own a boutique on Madison Avenue. Her stunning gowns earned her the Couturier of the Year plaque in 1961 and listings in the National Social Directory and the Who’s Who in American Women.
Lowe not only designed Bouvier’s gown once, but repeated the feat and did it faster the second time, according to a feature on Lowe in The Glowup.
“When Bouvier’s original wedding gown and bridesmaids’ dresses were ruined in a flood, she and her team re-created in 10 days what had originally taken them two months to make.”
She is now featured at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- Society’s Stylish Secret: Designer Ann Lowe Was a Fashion Force Few Knew (Until Now)
- Anne Cole Lowe
- Love, Noa, 708-212-4647, [email protected]