In 1993, Connie Leal Ballenger was a successful career woman who had worked for a large public accounting firm for almost decade. But even though the job was challenging, rewarding, and offered her the opportunity to travel the globe, she wanted to have a different kind of life-a life that gave her more time for friends and family. So, inspired by an entrepreneur grandfather and a lifetime love of fashion, Connie said goodbye to the corporate world and launched her own business. Leal has since set a standard for successful designer clothing boutiques.
During a time when Columbus was dominated by shopping malls, Connie saw an opportunity to do things differently. “I never wanted to be all things to all people,” says Connie. “I wanted to offer a more intimate and personal shopping experience in a real neighborhood.” She eventually selected a location in the heart of Upper Arlington where the shop thrives today-a destination for a highly edited collection of both established and emerging designers from the United States and abroad.
“Leal is about being fashion forward but not over-the-top trendy,” says Connie. “The women that shop here aren’t tossing away clothes after one season or wearing five-inch heels to do the school run. They want a relationship with the boutique and the sales people, care about fashion and are looking for quality. If you buy a jacket from me, I’m hoping you’ll still be wearing it in five years. Maybe you will pair it with totally different things for an updated look, but you’ll still love it.”
Now a busy wife and mother, Connie understands the essentials of a modern woman’s wardrobe. Her philosophy is that a good outfit is not about impressing people, or worse, intimidating them. It’s about expressing yourself and wearing something you love. It’s being able to effortlessly go from school to work, work to dinner, or wherever your day takes you. Connie and the ladies at Leal stress wardrobe building and they want you to leave the store happy and feeling good about the latest addition to your closet.