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Always in fashion

Fashionette has been dealing in ‘classy classics’ for 65 years

Fashionette has been offering affordable fashions from their Ridge Road location since the 1970s. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
by Carrie Steinweg

This article is part of a series featuring businesses that have at least a 50-year history in Lansing. To submit a local business for consideration, email The Lansing Journal.

LANSING, Ill. (March 2018) – Jackie Protsman describes her mother, Florence Aumick, as a smart and fashionable woman who happened to make a trip uptown in the early 1950s to buy curtains and ended up buying a shop. That shop became Lansing Hosiery and was located on Ridge Road, supplying local ladies with stockings and accessories. After a decade, it moved a few doors west to the building that is now Active Edge. Another decade later, her family purchased Dr. Polowski’s office, tore the building down, and built a new structure at 3334 Ridge Road that still houses the business today. The business shifted years ago from hosiery to women’s clothing and is now called the Fashionette.

Owner Jackie Protsman works five days a week at the Fashionette. “I love what I do,” she says. “I can’t think of anything in the world that I’d rather be doing.” (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Personalized service

Aumick’s daughter, Jackie, is still running the place at age 90, working five days a week and giving the same friendly, attentive, personalized service she always has. “We try to make sure we never let anyone leave angry,” said Protsman. “We make sure they are happy.”

Classy classics

In the store you’ll find affordable fashions that she refers to as “classy classics,” that are a step up from a department store, but not as expensive as they’d be in a boutique. “We carry quality stuff, classics that you can wear today and tomorrow. It’s not just for old ladies,” she said.

Currently in the store you’ll find winter inventory that will soon switch over for spring. Racks of sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets, and dress shirts hang with plastic covers over the shoulders to protect them from all the fingers that touch them—brands like Southern Lady and Jenny. Protsman lifts up a hanger and tugs at a fragile looking jacket that she says has been laser cut and is more durable than it looks. “Things change and you’ve got to change with the times,” she says.

Glass cases are filled with scarves, handbags, embroidered handkerchiefs and jewelry, including clip-on earrings. The back portion of the shop has racks of nightgowns, robes and aprons. Protsman said she gets new items in each month. Near the front of the store are hand-knitted baby blankets and caps that a friend makes, charging only for the yarn she purchases to make the items.

Near the front of the store are hand-knitted baby blankets and caps that a friend makes, charging only for the yarn she purchases to make the items. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
On a recent afternoon, a woman came in to purchase a purse. She was a return customer who already had a couple in the same style and color, but who wanted a “fresh” one. Protsman pulled out a little slip from a drawer—a typed poem with a “lucky penny” taped to the back, something she gives to customers who buy a new handbag so that they can carry a bit of good luck with them.

Friends and fashion

She has five part-time girls who help out at the store. “I’ve learned that I need to delegate some things,” she said. “And you have to have the right person for the job.” She enjoys each of the ladies, who are employees, but also friends and she said they have quite a good time when it comes to holiday parties, like their recent Christmas get-together at Teibel’s.

Always seen in a well-coordinated outfit, with bright polished nails and not a hair out of place, Protsman wears only clothes that come from her store. Her fashion sense runs in the family. Protsman recalls her mother’s stylish outfits and remembers vividly the first time that her mother wore a pantsuit. It wore a lavender pantsuit that matched well with her silver hair that she wore to one of the big social events of the year, the Lions Club Steak Fry.

Coming and going

She’s seen styles come and go, and she saw the summer sidewalk sales, once a very popular event in the village, go away. When it comes to technology, however, Protsman hasn’t followed the trends. She still types business documents and gift cards on the manual typewriter in her office—one that she can no longer buy replacement ribbons for, so she buys a brand of printer cartridge at an office supply store with a ribbon that is similar in size and spools in into her typewriter.

Jackie Protsman still types business documents and gift cards on the manual typewriter in her office. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
The Fashionette has now hit 65 years in business, and retirement is a word that isn’t even in Protsman’s vocabulary. As long as she’s able to get to work, she’ll be there. “I love what I do, and I can’t think of anything in the world that I’d rather be doing,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and I hope it shows.”

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Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."