When Katie Foley-Jacobs founded Cheeky Peach ten years ago, her formula was simple. Her boutique would cater to fashion-forward Athenians, offering them styles hard to find in other local venues. More importantly, her well-heeled clientele would enjoy a shopping experience unlike any other. Fashion as fast as a minute on Madison Avenue, an experience as familiar as catching up with good friends over drinks: that was the vision animating Cheeky Peach.
A decade later, a lot has changed. Business continues to thrive. Foley-Jacobs’s shop on Clayton Street now occupies twice the space of the original site. She features more brands now, and serves an increasingly diverse clientele. What has endured is the ethos she endowed her shop with — trend-forward sensibility combined with Southern hospitality.
Foley-Jacobs forged that vision with the Classic City in mind. Like many who start businesses here, she first came to Athens as an undergraduate. A member of University of Georgia’s equestrian team, she met her husband, a baseball player, in college. After graduation, they embarked on a new life together, living along the Eastern Seaboard for a few years. But Athens was always in their rearview mirror. “It’s a special, magical place,” she tells me. “We knew we’d come back someday.”
At 27, she and her husband returned to Athens. Foley-Jacobs quickly discerned a niche that Cheeky Peach filled. She could shop for the latest styles at intown venues, yet her experiences lacked warmth and familiarity. To marry the two in a single place would create the best of possible worlds for shoppers like her. With fondness she recalls opening her doors and realizing many Athenian women shared her needs.
If the fashions have evolved since 2010, her founding values haven’t. “I tell all my employees, the clothing and accessories can change,” she relates during a phone conversation. “The displays will change. The wall color can change. But our customer service can never, ever change.”
That obsession with providing a welcoming, personalized experience for everyone who comes through the doors of Cheeky Peach grounds the boutique’s success. Her stylists don’t force their aesthetics on customers; they engage in conversation, and craft looks together. That personal touch has inspired a devoted following. In addition to the new undergraduates streaming into the store looking for just the right pair of shoes, the same habitues who frequented the store when it launched still stroll in, put down their handbags, and catch up with Katie. On slower days, it’s not unusual to see the owner with a longtime customer downtown, walking to a local eatery for lunch and conversation.
The pandemic disrupted that fabled sense of community, but couldn’t destroy it. Like many retailers, Cheeky Peach watched as sales stagnated in the first months of lockdown. But where others saw only closed doors, Foley-Jacobs saw a unique opportunity. She had already begun experimenting with sales over social platforms, so now she pivoted, pouring her restless energy into that outreach — even as she kept up with the latest public health guidelines on safely keeping her business open to customers. While social media sales may lack the breezy bonhomie of in-person shopping, the fashion entrepreneur quickly found that her business model translated well to a remote model. “I’m always telling my stylists to sell to the story,” she relates. “Well, what do we all do on social media if not tell our stories? Stylists have to listen differently, sure, but we can give our customers the community and connection to the world of fashion through social channels.”
When a woman shops, it’s rarely just an article of clothing she’s after. It’s a quest for a sensation — the enchantment of an escape from everyday life, the confidence that comes from feeling beautiful, the joy of self-expression, the thrill of finding just the right outfit for a special occasion. This is something Foley-Jacobs understood from her own shopping needs. At Cheeky Peach you can find those experiences, and discover yourself part of a community as well.