As a busy mom of two toddlers, Rachel Kelley prioritizes comfort when it comes to her wardrobe.
“I pick clothing that travels well, that one can move easily wearing and is stylish,” says Kelley, who fills her store, The Cornerstone Boutique, with the kinds of clothes that fit her own criteria.
She bills her downtown Biloxi shop as a place where style meets elegance. Whether customers need something for a special occasion or office-appropriate attire, Cornerstone carries options for every shape, size and budget.
“It was extremely important for me to be size inclusive with as many styles as possible, offering up to 3X,” she says. “I also want to bring an affordable luxury experience to all my customers, with prices averaging between $30- $60.”
Given her lifelong love of fashion, it’s hardly surprising that Kelley now owns a boutique.
“My mother would buy old prom dresses from thrift stores and alter them to fit my sisters and me so we could play dress up,” she recalls. “This nurtured my love of dressing up and creative thinking.”
After a six-year banking career, Kelley opened her first business — a seasonal kiosk in a beach mall on Hilton Head Island.
“I had a steep learning curve ahead, navigating the difficulties associated with producing my own products while simultaneously working in a mall open seven days a week,” she says. “I soon got the opportunity to join the management team at Michael Kors, where my retail and marketing skills were sharpened.”
She left Michael Kors as a brand manager and applied her expertise to a new venture: buying Biloxi business Ya-Ya’s from her aunt and uncle in 2014.
“My husband completed some military training on Keesler Air Force Base and was familiar with Biloxi,” Kelley says. “We are so thankful for the opportunity to carry on and grow such a beloved coastal store.”
‘CLASSY, REFINED AND EASY TO WEAR’
Seven years and two children later, another growth opportunity arose in Downtown Biloxi.
“After some encouragement from my husband, I made the decision to open The Cornerstone Boutique,” Kelley says. “It was a several-month process of pouring my heart into transforming an office building into a retail space that is an extension of myself.”
To realize her vision, she removed unnecessary walls, added lighting, carefully chose a color aesthetic, refinished furniture and crafted displays. Realizing the space lacked authentic art, Kelley seized the opportunity to revive her longtime passion for painting, and her original pieces are available for purchase.
Now a year after its grand opening, the boutique has hit its stride.
“I pick styles for the store that can be put together to create many elegant and timeless looks inspired by art and soothing colors,” Kelley says. “In our accessories department, you will find handmade earrings with an art-deco inspiration, shoes, handbags, hats and sunshades.”
Most of Cornerstone’s clientele ranges in age from 30s to 60s, and Kelley is committed to educating herself and her team on various body types and how to pick the right pieces for each client. One patron described The Cornerstone as Ya-Ya’s big sister — a description that Kelley loves.
“We are classy, refined, easy to wear and definitely love a good date night,” she says. “We love creating tailored shopping experiences and can’t wait to help you pick out your next outfit!”
IF YOU GO
771 Howard Ave., Biloxi
Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday and Monday closed
@cornerstonebiloxi on Facebook and Instagram