Meet Our Fit Specialist of the Month
Get to know your fitter! Amoena highlights a certified mastectomy fitter each month.
Pauline Nelson, Unique Boutique
Charlotte, NC -- December 2013
This month’s fitter, Pauline Nelson, was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She was working at Marshall Fields in Chicago as a furniture sales person when her husband Paul suffered a stroke. When some friends living in North Carolina told Pauline she should move to their area so they could give her some support, she didn’t have to think twice. She and Paul have been in Charlotte ever since.
While working as a sales person for a surgical appliance company, one of her customers said that because of failing health she needed to find someone to take over her business. Long story short, Pauline used her previous background in real estate to create a purchase contract at a specific percentage for an agreed upon number of years, with a small amount of money as a down payment. At first the former owner turned Pauline down. To her surprise, the woman’s husband called that night and said they would take her offer.
So the Unique Boutique officially became Pauline's business back in the mid 1990s. She is both thrilled and proud that this has allowed her to be the sole support of her family ever since, although she’s quick to point out that Paul has helped by running the business part of things from the beginning.
Amoena: Tell us a little bit about Unique Boutique.
Pauline: In the beginning I only had two different prostheses and three bras, and those had to fit everyone. I will never forget my first day out (this was before I had purchased the business and was working for the previous owner). Back then I was covering North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC and parts of Baltimore. I was literally on the road sobbing because I had NO idea what I was doing. I remembered that I’d been told to watch for hospital signs because that would be where I’d find business. You talk about terrified! At that time my training was non-existent, so basically when I was doing a fitting I was just trying to make sure one side looked like the other side.
What a difference some time and experience make! Now we carry wigs, sportswear, swimsuits (both mastectomy and regular), regular bras and mastectomy bras, lots and lots of breast forms, and jewelry.
Amoena: What do you think makes Unique Boutique... well, unique?
Pauline: Don’t get me wrong – but it’s me. I still say I can fit faster and better than anyone. Having said that, I absolutely recognize just how important my entire staff is to making my business a success. I treat my personnel like family, which means I’ve kept people for a long time. I’m good to my people and that reflects in my success. I have one fitter who has been with me since the beginning.
Today, my staff consists of our manager Melissa Nelson (who just happens to be my daughter-in-law), Marcia Reed, Annette Hooks, Ruby Jones and Amy Poole. I truly couldn’t do it without them.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena bra and why?
Pauline: The Lara bra. It is seamless, which many of our women prefer, and it fits more women than most of the others. Another good one is the Kelly since I can get that so it fits my triple Ds. That’s another one that absolutely saves our lives when we have someone who might be hard to fit otherwise.
Amoena: What is your favorite Amoena form and why?
Pauline: I love all of the new forms because the exterior material is softer and more like a regular breast. The Essential Deluxe Light (247) is also great because of the shape.
Amoena: What is your favorite part of being a fitter?
Pauline: The women. I like the different personalities and being able to help them and make them laugh. I’m a bit of a cut-up and I always get to the point. I’ve always had cold hands, so I warn women before I touch them that I don’t mean to make them jump! I always try to warm them first, but I get a kick out of reminding women that my cold hands mean I have a warm heart!
Amoena: What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?
Pauline: That no matter how much you learn there is always more. Just when I think I know all I need to know, something new will pop up. I’m also beginning to realize that in life, no matter how many years you have under your belt, there is no guarantee you will be wise. If you use the golden rule and treat people like you would want to be treated you will thrive.
Amoena: What do you think makes a good fitter?
Pauline: Common sense. Just plain common sense. And I’ve learned there is not a so-called good or bad fit, because some women wear things tight, some loose. A good fit is when the customer is happy and it fits the way she wants. Then I know I’ve done my job.
Amoena: In your time as a fitter, you most certainly have had memorable women come into your shop. Any inspiring stories you’d like to share?
Pauline: I had a lovely woman with a beautiful spirit that used to come in and actually cheer all of us up. She knew she was dying, but whenever she came in she would be laughing. I still can’t believe the joy she spread. After she passed away, her mother came in and thanked us for having taken care of her. I’ve had a lot of customers who were memorable, but I can still see her face, and it’s been over 10 years.
I’m grateful that we don’t seem to lose as many women as we used to. My mailing list continues to grow, and I’m appreciative of that because it means women are surviving.
Amoena: When you aren't working, what do you like to do?
Pauline: Well, it’s not very exciting, but that’s fine with me! I like to just relax and watch TV. Breaking Bad was my favorite for a long time. The acting and writing were fantastic. At the moment Homeland is one of my favorites.
And my Miniature Schnauzer, Princess, is the love of my life. You can bet she’s spoiled rotten, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.