Downtown boutique Inner Tie is sort of like a fashion speak-easy.
No glaringly obvious signage directs you to the second-floor showroom on East Pennington Street, right next to Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink — you have to be in the know.
Look at the light-stained wooden door reading “201” and lean in close. See the brightly colored plastic frames stuck on it? They list business hours and info. Ta-da — you made it.
It’s an unconventional spot for a shop. But then, Inner Tie isn’t your everyday store.
Owner Jodi Henderson does business a little differently: She works with about a dozen independent designers, selling and marketing for them and, if needed, linking them to manufacturers in the United States. She launched a website a year ago but missed that interaction with customers — “I was living in a cyberbubble,” she says — and so she opened downtown this summer.
The store’s name comes from that hidden inside tie you’ll find stitched into robes.
“I felt like the secret tie tying manufacturers to designers,” she says.
Inner Tie’s mix of clothing, jewelry and bags is eclectic. She aims to please the 35-45-year-old crowd, those who need to look office-appropriate but want to be fashion-forward. Henderson has small-name designers along with lines like Eva Franco, whose clothing can be found at Anthropologie. Inner Tie offers everything from formal dresses in the $100-$450 range to shirts and sweaters that cost about $30.
“I don’t have these crazy markups because I don’t have a middleman,” says Henderson, who worked as a makeup artist and even a “corporate henchman” for a venture capitalist.
“Not my finest hour,” she says of the gig, but it did give her the chops for running her own business.
Henderson’s well-lit showroom — courtesy of wide windows with charmingly warped-in-spots glass — is painted a soft sage. It’s decorated with racks she made herself and dragged-from-the-Dumpster finds. Traffic and conversations from the sidewalk below waft upstairs, giving Inner Tie a funky, big-city feel.
Henderson’s still building her clientele and plans to start offering customers the chance to weigh in on new designs.
Being downtown is an iffy retail location, but Henderson says she recently had her first shoplifter.
“At least I know I’ve arrived.”