A Life of Loves And Passions Inspired By Paper Dolls

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by Carol Kirtley

An obsession with fashion and clothing people to look their best influenced a local business woman’s journey from a child playing with paper dolls to becoming the owner of one of the Roanoke Valley’s most personable boutiques.

Kathy Grosvenor, owner of Kathy’s Boutique in West Village on Rt. 419, said her greatest joy as a child was playing with paper dolls.

“I would spend hours cutting out and trying this on that doll and that on another.  I was totally absorbed in making them look as good as I could. I loved playing with dolls of any kind. I didn’t just use the look and clothes the doll came with but I would make clothes and alter clothes to mix and match.  It was so much fun.”

Kathy said she is sad to see that little children don’t play with dolls the way she did.

“They use the computer and click.  It’s just not the same. There’s no touching of the fabric or seeing the folds fall just right to flatter the body or working with colors and textures. It’s just not the same.”

Seventy-five years later, Kathy is finally putting away her living dolls.

“I’ve appreciated the opportunity to dress people during my career, but I have promised the love of my life, my Ed, that we will spend more time together.”

Kathy’s Boutique will close its doors on December 31, 2011.

“I’ll miss working with fashion, but I love Ed more.”

Growing up with a physically and mentally abusive mother, Kathy showed scars that are still visible on her face after decades of healing.

“My Ed saved my life.”

“People said I looked like Natalie Wood and my mother set up dates for me with lawyers and doctors and men whom she thought would be best for me.  Rich was her goal. But I went on a blind date and before the date was over, I knew that Ed and I would be together.  He walked me to my door put his hand lightly on my shoulder and said: ‘Can I see you again’?”

Kathy said she felt like she couldn’t breathe.

“All I could get out was ‘OK’,” she said with a giggle.

“I fell head over heels in love with him at that moment.”

Kathy said she knew her mother would be furious.

“I can see it as clearly as if it happened yesterday.  I was afraid of my mother, but I marched into my parent’s bedroom. They were in bed waiting for me to come home. I looked her in the eye and said, ‘I’ve found the man I’m going to marry’.

Mother started yelling at me, ‘What does he do? You know you can do better than that’.”

“My Ed had nothing. He was just starting out.  It was true what my mother said. He didn’t have a dime.  But it didn’t matter to me.  I felt loved and safe and happy.  I knew in my heart that I could make him happy too.  That’s all I wanted.”

“On our wedding day my mother said: ‘I’ll give that marriage five years!”

Ed is retired from IBM. Kathy took an early retirement from C&P Telephone Company and they celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary on November 3, 2011.

“I was only retired three months when Ed suggested that it was time that I do what I’ve always wanted to do.  My Ed always wants me to be happy. I went to work at Patina’s for eleven and a half years.  Then Ed and our sons helped me build my own boutique in Ridgewood Farms.  It was so exciting.”

Kathy said that Ed says he is the janitor and handyman for Kathy’s Boutique.

“But that’s not true!  The ladies who come here just love him!”

“My Ed is everything to me.  I always want to look my best for him.  My Ed knew my passion for fashion and he always notices what I’m wearing and I love to surprise him. My Ed knew that my dream was to make people look beautiful. That’s what fashion is really about.”

Kathy said she has never let someone leave her shop with clothes that don’t look great on them.

“I’d rather not make the sale.”

Retirement for Kathy and Ed isn’t sitting around watching TV.

“My Ed and I are going to spend a lot of time just being together. Working around the house and I’ll help him and he’ll help me.  He’s a man of God.”

Ed is a Gideon. His chapter put Bibles in hotels in the Roanoke Valley.

“We don’t mind if you take them home with you,” he said laughing. The Gideon Chapter maintains the hotel Bibles and keeps Lewis-Gale Hospital supplied. Once a year Ed and the other members hand out Bibles to area high school students.

Kathy’s focus – other than her Ed – will be the new Charity Cottage in Vinton for abused women and women of low self-esteem and the West End Center for Youth.

“I’ve always supported the annual fashion show that creates money to fund the West End Center, but now I’ll have time to do more.”