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Votes

Romance for the Senses

<b>Owner: </b>

Torun Walker

<b>Short bio: </b>

Torun was born in Atlanta and grew up in Springfield, Virginia. She attended the University of Alabama and Oklahoma State University. Earlier in her career, Torun coordinated political fundraising efforts before leading training seminars for educational institutions, nonprofits and Nextel® Communications. She and her husband Brian live in Old Town with their four-year-old daughter.

<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>

My interest in opening a store – particularly one that spoke to the "everyday romantic" within all of us – was based both on gut instinct as well as hard facts. I’ve always wanted to be in business for myself, and confess a leaning toward products that make you feel pampered, beautiful, and ready to take on the world – with no visible panty lines, of course. Fine lingerie was an excellent fit and my research showed it was on a sharp upswing.

<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself rather than as an employee for someone else ? </b>

While I feel I can morph into a corporate or political structure, at heart I’m a free spirit, preferring to carve my own path, no matter what pitfalls or broken heels I might encounter along the way. Changing careers was scary at first but from the moment we threw open our doors almost three years ago, I knew I had made the right decision. My store gives me the opportunity to flex my creative energies, get to know my community first-hand and instill a bit of romance into our otherwise frenetic and stressful lives. And I just love creating fun window displays for the commuters stuck at the corner of Route 1 and King!

<b>What have you learned from being in business? </b>

Meaningful relationships are key, a good team is worth its weight in gold, and nothing is ever certain. And when ladies find the right bra, ooooh, life is good.

<b>Share an anecdote of a challenging or humorous experience or biggest surprise learned from working your business: </b>

A couple come to mind:

* The old adage to "never judge a book by its cover" is certainly true in our business. We’ve seen a conservative woman in her 70s scoop up a lacy La Perla g-string for underneath her tweed suit, a senior military commander head straight for the turquoise swim suit with the daring cut, a sleep-deprived surgeon in search of something beautiful and colorful for under her scrubs, and an intellectual, rather formal executive choose a see-through nightie as a mischievous shower gift for her quick-to-blush young assistant. It’s moments like this that make our business so fun!

* Men are frequent visitors to our store, usually looking for a special gift for the women in their lives. No matter how different the men’s tastes, personalities or profession, however, we can always count on two things to be consistent: Their first visit to the store (and first peek at our inventory) prompts them to freeze in the foyer like a deer in headlights. It’s not until one of us walks up calmly, offers guidance through our swirling racks of bras, panties and nighties that their eyes begin to slowly blink and blood pressure returns to normal. The other thing in common? Fear of the L word -- Large. There isn’t a man in town who willingly brings home a large-sized item for fear it will insult his significant other even when it actually is her size. Insistence on a medium is made, the bag is packed, the tissue inserted…and several days later the lady in his life returns…for the Large.

<b>What have been the advantages and/or disadvantages of operating a business in Alexandria? </b>

As both a resident and business owner in Old Town, I obviously have a strong tie to the community and an interest in its success. I certainly benefit from Old Town’s glowing reputation as a fine dining and touring destination, and I feel particularly lucky to have hung my shingle on upper King Street where I’m surrounded by a retail community that works hard to combine quality products with attention to customer service and a flair for the distinctive and creative.

<b>Manager: </b>

Deborah Hall

<b>Short bio: </b>

Deborah grew up in Charlottesville, Va. and attended college in the Baltimore area. She worked as a professional model and actress, appearing in print ads, catalogues, television and videos, and at special events. She transitioned to a management career after leaving the modelling industry and now resides in Old Town with her husband Doug. In addition to managing Romance for the Senses, Deborah has her own jewelry line that is sold at Romance and through custom orders.

<b>Key staff: </b>

Leah El-Darwish

Margaret Johnson

Kelly Wise

<b>Description of services and/or products: </b>

Fine lingerie and loungewear, robes and slippers, swim wear, chocolates, bath products, music and home accessories. There’s also a section for expectant and nursing moms and gifts for men.

Lucky Magazine has called us "an excellent destination" and we’ve been highlighted in Elle, Real Simple and local press for our fresh and fashionable approach that mixes the classically beautiful with the hottest trends from top designers and up-and-comers. Our brands include Aubade, Belabumbum, Eberjey, Hanky Panky, Huit, La Perla, Mary Green, Princess Tam Tam, Vitamin A, and many others.

<b>Professional affiliations/associations: </b>

Torun is a member of the Alexandria Women’s Giving Circle. Romance for the Senses supports many local charitable efforts, including the Alexandria Red Cross and public and private school events.