A Lakeland mom and entrepreneur whose business blossomed on social media will expand her women’s clothing boutique to brick and mortar at a freshly painted store in Dixieland this holiday weekend.

Whiskey Way Boutique will partially open Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a “Shop the Warehouse” event, owner Alison Hodges said. The store is at 947 S. Florida Avenue; for the two-day sale, customers will enter at the back of the store off the alley between Highland and Cannon Streets.

Hodges said plans to fully open the brick-and-mortar location in January.

The online boutique launched on Facebook in March and as of now shows 8.1K likes. There’s now a website and an iPhone app.

Hodges models casual tops, jeans or dresses with upbeat, friendly chatter during live online segments. Her mission, she says, is to encourage other women.

Clothes sizes range from small to 3X in casual and trendy styles, Hodges says.

The pandemic that closed local businesses and retail outlets didn’t deter her from seeking new goals. “I already had a plan to open a store. Despite Covid19, I said let’s just do it and see what happens,” she said. 

Hodges said when she started her online sales store, she reasoned people would be working from home more.

“We grew more than we thought we would,” she said. “We’re grateful we had a great community of women online. It’s just crazy that you can dream up something like this. It blows my mind.”

The 30-year-old single mom said her broader goals included working for herself on her own schedule as well as helping her son and daughter to realize what they can do.

“I really wanted to start something of my own.  I wanted to teach my daughter and to model how to be an entrepreneur,” Hodges said.

“To see at a young age … [that] a dream can come true, to see business start and grow is one of the reasons I’m doing this,” she said. “I want to be able to do that for them and have a good work schedule.”

The name Whiskey Way was based on customer suggestions: “It sounded cute and represents the type customer we have — a fun girls’ girl.”

Whether her customers are buying her clothes online or at the store, Hodges says she wants them to feel safe, not judged, and to be themselves.  Her business philosophy was influenced by her early life growing up in Kathleen and Lakeland, she said.

“I grew up in the church watching my mom work with women in the women’s ministry.  I’ve always liked working with other women and my group is great at making others feel good about themselves.”

When Hodges says “her group,” she is referring to her business page and private, VIP Facebook group that requires women to request to be added. As a VIP, women can share photos of their outfits and receive encouragement and style tips.

Before heading into the business arena Hodges was a nurse. She said she switched after being encouraged by friends who took note of her skill with makeup and clothes.

“I wanted to know what I could do as my part. My goal long term for Whiskey Way is to make an impact in the community with charities.”

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