Lace Silhouettes Lingerie Celebrates 35 Years
By Taylor Jackson
In 1988, Karen Thompson opened her first store, Lace Silhouettes Lingerie. Today, she has grown that business to nine stores across Pennsylvania and New Jersey in some of the biggest shopping destinations in the Northeast – three are her lingerie shops in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, PA, Palmer Square in Princeton, NJ and the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, NJ. Thompson sat down with me to look back on her 35-year journey.
What was your first job?
My first job was at a drug store in a local mall in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. I worked there through high school as a cashier. When I graduated, I knew I had a passion for fashion and took a job at Bamberger’s Department store (now Macy’s) in the Montgomery Mall. I started as a manager of the handbag department and then moved into buying.
Who are your biggest role models?
My mom and dad always supported my dreams and taught me what it takes to run my own business. My grandmother was also a great role model. She saw my love for fashion at a young age and always pushed me to follow that passion. She even suggested I get into the buying field as a career after high school!
Why did you decide to start your own business?
My mother and father started a trash company. Growing up, I was always surrounded by that entrepreneurial spirit.
What was your mission at the start of your company?
To survive! When I began to look seriously into opening my own business, I read that eight out of 10 businesses fail. I opened my first store in 1988, right after the crash of 1987. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I decided to just go for it.
Why did you choose Peddler’s Village to open your flagship store?
Again… completely by chance! I knew I wanted to grow and was focused on attracting more customers. A space opened up in Peddler’s Village and that’s when I decided to move my lingerie store. I have been in Peddler’s Village ever since. It wasn’t always easy, though. When I had my store with the bridal salon, and even when I moved it to Peddler’s Village, I was still working full time for a wholesale company in New York City. I commuted to that job during the week and managed Lace Silhouettes Lingerie on the weekends.
What was it like running your own business while being a wife and mother to two boys?
Busy, busy, busy! I had to make a lot of sacrifices. I could not have done it without the love and support from my husband, Dave and my family. They have been with me every step of the way.
Were there any people that mentored you throughout your 35 years as a business owner?
Absolutely. My husband’s parents had a big influence. They gave me a $7,000 loan to open my first store back in 1988. They helped me get my business off the ground from the very beginning. I also learned a lot from Earl Jamison, the founder of Peddler’s Village. He always kept an interest in my growth. At the time, I didn’t realize how much I really learned from him. He would always ask me open ended questions, and he guided me to the answers that ultimately helped me reach the next step.
What have been your biggest learning experiences in running a business?
Flexibility was a big thing that I learned. As a business owner, you have to accept that life is unpredictable. You’ve got to learn to preserve and pivot when you have to. Over the course of my 35-year journey I have had to work through storms, recessions and, most recently, a pandemic!
Don’t be afraid to take risks, either. I currently have nine retail store locations; throughout my 35 years I have had about 25 retail locations. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you have to keep pushing for the next opportunity.
I’ve learned to keep calm and take things one day at a time.
What do you think is the key to your success?
I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t found such an amazing team to learn and grow with me. I am lucky to have so many dedicated and professional staff members. The support from my family, children and husband is also huge.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners?
If you always stay passionate, you will always find a way.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Growth. During the pandemic my team and I were able to work on our craft. We became stronger by remaining still. I think that’s important. You can always turn a negative into a positive. Now that we are moving past the pandemic, we are ready to grow.
I am also looking forward to continuing our community involvement. My team and I are very passionate about giving back to the local community and are always looking for ways to grow our philanthropic endeavors.
This is just the beginning. I want this company to reach 100 years and beyond. I won’t be here, but the stores and the journey will be.