Munden to close Shay Leslie in EC, reopen in KDH

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Kathy Munden, owner of Shay Leslie Boutique on East Main Street, shows off merchandise for sale in her shop in this February 2017 file photo. Munden said she's closing Shay Leslie in Elizabeth City and relocating the business to Kitty Hawk to be closer to her home in Kill Devil Hills.

Kathy Munden picture.jpg

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Shay Leslie Boutique, a fixture in Elizabeth City’s downtown for nearly 25 years, will be closing next Saturday and relocating to Dare County, owner Kathy Munden said last week.

Munden, who lives in Kill Devil Hills, said Thursday she’s moving her women’s fashion shop to a space in a shopping center off North Croatan Highway in Kitty Hawk. 

Munden said she made the decision to relocate last month, acknowledging the long commute to Elizabeth City — she’s up at 6 a.m. and doesn't arrive home sometimes until after 7 p.m. — was a key factor.

"I'm just ready to have my business closer to my home," she said.

Munden said she’s leaving downtown Elizabeth City with mixed feelings, however. 

"I have cultivated a wonderful clientele and I consider all of my clientele my friends," she said. "It was a bittersweet decision, but I just felt like it was the best thing for me."

Shay Leslie’s new space will only be about five minutes from Munden’s home. Shay Leslie’s Facebook page shows a store banner already up at the space, announcing its planned opening. 

Munden opened her shop in Elizabeth City in the early 1990s, operating first out of the Water Works building and then the former Comstock’s Confectionary building before moving into her current location in the 600 block of East Main Street in March 2010.

Munden said Shay Leslie — the name is an inversion of her goddaughter’s name — has always sold clothing and accessories to women between their late 20s and early 70s.

"I have a little bit of something for everybody, really," she said.

Asked why she went into the fashion business, Munden said it was just always something she wanted to do. 

"It has been a passion of mine as long as I can remember — and it's just been a wonderful ride here," she said.

Munden is one of a handful of downtown merchants who have weathered not only the economic downturn in 2009 but also the city’s massive downtown utility and street project in 2011-12. The latter disrupted customer traffic for a number of downtown businesses because it required closing streets.  

Asked how she was able to hang on so long, Munden said it’s because she loves what she does. "And because failure is just not in my vocabulary," she said.

Shay Leslie’s landlord on East Main Street is the Port Discover science center for children. 

"We don't anticipate that (space) will be vacant for any length of time," Debbie Malenfant, executive director of Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. told the ECDI board last week.

Port Discover Board Chairman David Simpson said Friday that talks are underway with a possible new tenant for the Shay Leslie space, but nothing has been finalized yet.