Since she was a teenager, Lori Thomson dreamed of owning a store. A lover of fashion and art, Thomson spent the next 30 or so years paving the way for the realization of her “passion project” by working in retail, corporate retail, and creating visual displays for retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
Vera Doyle: A Welcoming Space for Everybody
Then, last year, a series of “whirlwind” changes led Thomson and her family to relocate from Lansdale to Elkins Park and with the move, the opportunity to open a boutique. In mid-April she held an official opening for Vera Doyle, a Mt. Airy shop comprising various home décor items, jewelry, apparel, coffee table books, candles, and body care items such as lotions and soaps. Thomson is also looking to feature rotating artists on the store’s walls. Items are all sourced from over 20 different women-owned businesses and artists.
“The store is a welcoming space for everybody,” Thomson said. “The store is about memories, making memories, telling stories of all these vendors and brands and artists. Behind these things you’re buying it’s a person. Everyone has a story, experience, obstacles, and victories.”
The boutique is named for Thomson’s mother, Vera Calimano (whose maiden name was Doyle).
While cleaning out the attic in her Long Island, N.Y., home, Calimano found a box of old photos. She mailed them to her daughter and voilà, Thomson found the inspiration for her store name, its décor, and its marketing in a 1970s-era photo of her mother.
“What I wanted to do for the store was to represent women, especially women of color, like my mom,” Thomson said. “It’s my homage to her, my gift to her. She deserves to have her name up on a building and lights.”
The youngest of four children, the entrepreneur and her mother have always been close and able to “read each other’s minds,” according to Thomson. Yet, their mother-daughter intuition did not prepare Calimano for the overwhelming emotions she felt after seeing her face on the wall of her daughter’s store, which was named in her honor.
“It was overwhelming for her, but in a good way,” Thomson said.
While the love of her mother coupled with the realization of her dream has continued to push her forward, getting started was “really scary,” she said. In summer 2022 she began mentoring with Steve Wolfson of SCORE Bucks County, who guided her through finding a location, store style, product selection and pricing.
“He’s been a really great person to ask anything,” she said. “I call him my guidance counselor. He was very informative. He was up front and honest. It keeps you humble and on the right path.”
Wolfson said he will continue to mentor Thomson, adding that she’s well-equipped for business success.
“Lori has worked very hard at creating a store that is inviting to enter, easy to search out products for the home or gifts, and affordable for everyone,” Wolfson said. “Lori is an excellent SCORE client working very hard to achieve a sustainable business that has a need — per her customers’ comments — in the community.”
“Follow Your Heart”
Thomson recommends anyone looking to open a store call on SCORE for invaluable insight. In addition to finding a mentor, she suggests devising an effective plan, knowing your market, and focusing on your vision.
“Follow your heart,” she said. “When you really stick to your mission and your truth it’ll happen the way you want it to happen.”
Learn more at SCORE.