The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 25, 2012

Boutique that caters to cancer patients to close at month's end

By Lora Scripps

— Nearly a decade ago, Limestone County native Lou Covington had a dream. It was not self-centered in nature. Rather, it was dream meant to provide help for others, especially women in the area diagnosed with breast cancer.

When Lou first thought of opening the doors to Lou C’s Boutique, located at 207 Coman Street in Athens, she didn’t realize how many ladies in the Limestone County area had to drive to Huntsville or Decatur to purchase the medical supplies and necessities they needed. What she did know is that she wanted to create a more intimate setting where they could get supplies and in a place that made them feel special as well as take the medical experience out of the process.

Now, it seems, what Lou started may soon come to an end. Earlier this month, Lou sent a letter to more than 300 patrons to make them aware she might have to shut her doors for good.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am writing you this letter,” Lou said. “Due to economics and other personal reasons, Lou C’s Boutique will be closing.” She plans to stop accepting insurance on Oct. 31, but said she plans to help ladies in the area for as long as she possibly can. Lou said she would love to be able to find someone to purchase Lou C’s and that she would also love to be able to carry on being a fitter.

According to Lou, the boutique hasn’t been just a job. Instead, it’s a ministry that has allowed her to grow close to those who use the services. “It’s not an easy thing for me to do,” she said. “You are not just a customer, you are someone who has had cancer and has gone through mental and physical challenges, and this is why I opened a boutique — to make you feel special and important,” she stated in the letter.

The boutique is not the only way Lou has helped survivors through the years, she also helped organize the Pink Ribbon Hope Chest Survivor Group, which meets at Athens-Limestone Hospital, and has played an integral role in planning the Party in Pink — Pamper Me Day during October for fighters and survivors at Valley Event Center.

“Thank you for making Lou C’s a dream come true for me and thank you for all of your support,” Lou said.

She said so many of her patrons, who she considers friends, have been sweet and supportive during the past few weeks.

Marjorie Walker, a 17-year breast cancer survivor, said she has been trading with Lou since the shop opened. Before that time she would travel to Nashville or Huntsville for the supplies she needed, but she prefers Lou C’s.

“I love the boutique,” Marjorie said. “Once I started going to Lou, I haven’t gone anywhere else.”

For Marjorie, the shop is nice and very convenient. She admits she’s in good health for her age, but she doesn’t want to start going somewhere else for supplies.  “It will hurt me badly if she does have to close,” she said. “I hope she can stay in business, not just for me, but for all the others.” Marjorie is concerned for the more than 300 people that could stop shopping in Athens. “We need to support her,” she said.

Breast Cancer survivor Shirley Clinard agrees. “She has been a lifesaver and I sure hate to see her go,” she said. “She has so many people here that depend on her and don’t have the means to get to Huntsville.”

Clinard said if she could, she would take over the shop. “I wish someone would buy it and let Lou run it,” she said.

Shirley Williams of Piney Chapel first visited Lou C’s Boutique during its open house. She has been a survivor since 1998 and still buys her necessities at the shop. “When you are first diagnosed with breast cancer or something shocking like the big ‘C,’ your mind cannot really comprehend it,” she said. “You need some comforting assistance and don’t want to be a number. Lou provides a comforting touch. You feel welcome. It’s not just the merchandise, she is in tune with her customers.”

She has been to other places, but said they don’t fit her personality. “Lou really fills a special need. It’s a special touch.”

Anita Smith, a breast and tonsil cancer survivor, who is now battling lung cancer, said she loves Lou C’s because it’s a pleasant place to shop. She can remember going to pharmacies and having to stand in a back room with no mirrors when being fitted. “It wasn’t personal or friendly or anything like that,” she said. “Lou is so sweet. She has been really great.”

Anita said she is 75 and doesn’t travel to Huntsville, anymore. Her hope is that Lou will find someone to take over the boutique. “It means so much to have a little boutique in Athens,” Anita said, adding the shop has lifted her spiritually.  “Lou C’s Boutique makes you feel like a woman again. You can talk about anything and Lou is always there to help. I just love her.”

It’s obvious Lou’s heart is heavy. Her hope is someone will continue to carry the torch for the women of Limestone County. To contact Lou Covington, call 256-216-9100.