WEEDSPORT — When Jill Fudo looks back on the experience of buying her first bra, she remembers fighting with her mother, who insisted she started wearing one.
"That was not a pleasant first intro to being an adult or to being a woman or to my body changing," Fudo said.
And now that she's the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Fudo doesn't want her or any other girls or women to have a negative experience shopping for a bra, whether it's her first bra or her 100th.
That's why she and business partner Kim Fortin opened Fierce...with Love, an undergarment and lingerie boutique for women and girls of all ages, shapes and sizes. Fortin and Fudo decided to open the Weedsport store, located at 8914 N. Seneca St., because they noticed a "lack of options" for women looking to shop for underwear in the area, Fudo said.
Fierce...with Love carries ethically sourced and manufactured bras, panties, lingerie and sleepwear for tweens, teens and women in cup sizes up to H and band sizes 28 through 44. A majority of the products are for everyday wear, but the shop also sells bridal and special occasion pieces, nursing and maternity garments and activewear. Fortin said it was important to her and Fudo to not carry any brands that sexualize women in their marketing campaigns.
The shop opened June 15 and so far has garnered a positive reaction from shoppers, the business owners said.
"I can't tell you how many women we've talked to that have said, 'Oh my gosh, this is such a long time coming,'" Fudo said. "We should have had something like this. I mean, it's something you buy anyways, so why not make it a great experience?"
Added Fortin, "We spoke to a woman who said, 'I've never had a bra that fit me ... and I've never been to a place where they've taken the time to help me find it.' That's kind of what we're trying to do is offer that opportunity with our products."
The shop's sales associates are all trained to fit women for their perfect bra. Shoppers can stop in during the store's regular hours for a bra fitting, but Fortin and Fudo recommended women make an appointment before coming in for a fitting for the best one-on-one experience. Two of the employees have personal post-surgical experience, which Fudo said is great for women who are breast cancer survivors or have undergone breast reduction surgery.
The boutique will also be available for private special events, such as group fittings, bridal and baby showers, or birthday celebrations. Special events will take place after store hours and groups can use the space for up to two hours for no charge. There is space for catering as well.
Fortin and Fudo recognize that underwear shopping can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for many women, so they wanted to their shop to be a "classy, comfortable, welcoming and friendly" environment where women can feel empowered. The boutique's offerings hang in the small retail section, both on hangers and on mannequins. The women took advantage of the building's original hardwood floors and exposed brick wall, painting the remaining walls white and a dark slate blue. The back of the shop boasts three spacious fitting rooms with comfortable seating, grey curtains and colorful rugs. Grey furniture and modern light fixtures finish off Fierce...with Love's cozy, intimate vibe.
When it came time to name their shop, Fortin and Fudo said the struggled at first to come up with a name that fit their mission of making women feel powerful in their own skin. Then Fortin came across a poem by Rudy Francisco with the line, “Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it is done.”
"It gives us the opportunity to be fierce as women and stand on our own but also to offer that compassion toward ourselves and toward others," Fudo said. "That love for ourselves and the love for others comes from that fierceness in ourselves. We think that being fierce is something we all strive for in our daily lives as independent women."