Image: lululemon athletica fondren showroom

Cheering on runners | Image: lululemon athletica fondren showroom

by Andi Agnew

Nestled between the former M!SO and the entrance to Fondren Place on Duling Avenue, an unassuming storefront doesn’t scream major national brand. Look up and you may notice a familiar symbol from one of the nation’s hottest athletic retailers above the door. Opened just a year ago, lululemon athletica is getting Jackson’s feet wet with their first Mississippi showroom — a small boutique version of a full store.

Founded in 1998 in Vancouver, British Columbia, lululemon shared their first retail space with a yoga studio. Since then the brand has expanded to include stores and showrooms all over the U. S., Canada and worldwide. With clothing for both men and women, lululemon focuses on technical athletic apparel for yoga, running, dancing, and “most other sweaty pursuits.”

“I like to think ‘Law of Attraction’ brought lululemon to me,” says owner and manager of the showroom Kyla Weems. “I had this dream scenario of a job that I’m really passionate about… I wanted to run my own business, but not have to put up a lot of money.”

Not long after setting this goal, the regional manager for lululemon walked into Blithe & Vine where Weems was working at the time. “I told her I was obsessed with their product and asked when they were going to open a store here. She said they were actually looking for someone to open a showroom – it’s a small boutique version of a full lululemon store. It’s very entrepreneurial – you manage the budget, you hire your team, decorate like you want. You’re truly treated like a small business manager,” she says.

Lululemon takes their mission statement “Elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness,” seriously with community involvement setting them apart from many retailers. The showroom is open three days a week, but the staff spends the other days supporting the community, from visiting local gyms and studios to hosting private parties and trunk shows and getting involved in charity work.

The company does not pay for any advertising, relying instead on word of mouth from customers and also through their Ambassador program. Weems describes Ambassadors as, “Rock star athletes in our community that we know and love.” Jackson Ambassadors include Tara Blumenthal of Tara Yoga, Scotta Brady of Butterfly Yoga, Terry Sullivan of liveRIGHTnow, and Jordan Walker of JoyFlow Yoga.

“The Ambassador program is about what we can do to support them – they’re not paid. The only thing we expect from them is relationship building. We want to hang out and get to know them and figure out how we can support them. It doesn’t stop with us going to classes or promoting whatever activity they do – there’s a personal relationship involved,” Weems says.

The lululemon team also gives back through various forms of charitable and volunteer work – community cleanup, judging science fairs, participating in Angel Tree projects at Christmas and cheering on runners at local races. The showroom offers free community classes (usually yoga, CrossFit or Zumba) each Saturday, sometimes taking the classes outside the showroom and into Ambassadors’ studios.

Where many people see a state that is always 50th in health rankings, Weems sees potential for positive change. “Mississippi’s come a long way health-wise, and I think we have a long way to go. But these key people – every single athlete or instructor in this city – are up to great things.”

Related: lululemon athletica Fondren Showroom Opening Thursday | PHOTOS: lululemon athletica’s Fondren  Showroom Opens