Businesswoman Ellen Lazenby had retired as the owner of several women's fashion boutiques when, at age 60, she decided to put her driving energy into "one more for the road," as she likes to say.
"I love people and I like to surround myself with beautiful things," Lazenby said.
In five years, 432 West Side has become a popular shopping spot for women in search of comfort, good style, some trendiness, but most importantly, comfort. Its high-end accessories and gifts are a draw as well.
The shop's clothing brands include Planet's soft, flowing Japanese-inspired styles that are loose and away from the body; California-based CP Shades that makes simple, elegant clothing in all natural fabrics that can be worn anywhere, and A 'Nue Ligne styles in easy care Tactel and Lycra fabrics.
Prices range from $15 for hair clips to $400 for a handmade Suzi Roher designer belt.
When she first opened, Lazenby focused more on imported and luxury gift items, like handblown glass and high-fashion costume jewelry. She carried some clothing, but customers who had shopped in her former businesses wanted more.
"There's an old saying that your customers define who you are," Lazenby said. "To satisfy them and make a success of the business," she added the fashionable lines she carries today.
Doris Deaconson of Largo began shopping at 432 West Side two years ago when she lost 20 pounds and needed new clothing. She normally shopped in Tampa but when someone recommended the Belleair Bluffs boutique, she decided to stop by.
"I went and now I shop there," she said. "I bought too many clothes. I really love what they have. The Baggallini bags designed by two stewardesses are great."
Deaconson, who is an active 86, is no newcomer to fashion. Before retiring, she earned a degree in general engineering and worked in it for a while but became bored with it and carved a niche for herself, specializing in selecting complete wardrobes for California women.
"The clothing is elegantly simple and simply elegant," she said of the boutique's fashions. "You can dress them up or down for any occasion.
"I was wearing pants from the store at an art show in the spring, and someone came up and said, where did you get those? I love them."
Rosetta Jordan, of Belleair Shore and Lexington, Ky., has been a customer since the shop opened.
"It's my favorite store," said Jordan, who is 70. "I like Ellen and I like the people she hires. They're very honest and friendly. They're not pushy and you don't feel intimidated to buy.
"The store is so well-rounded and Ellen has excellent taste. I love her beautiful costume jewelry — it doesn't hurt my ears, which are very sensitive."
"I think people are tired of going to the malls," Lazenby said.
Jordan said that's true for her.
"I like the size and charm of the store," she said. "You go into department stores and I get lost."
Espresso coffee and wine are also part of the shop's amenities not usually found at department stores.
Said Lazenby, "I have customers who stop in especially for their morning espresso."