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Cornelius News

Tiny retail space will take a big approach to lake style

Aug. 23. By TL Bernthal. An upscale boutique is scheduled to open in mid-September in what may be the smallest retail space in Cornelius.

The 400 square feet is owned by Frank Free, a Realtor and broker with Lake Realty.

“I hope it’ll be a nice addition here, with a lake life feeling,” Free says.

Frank Free

The boutique is called The Lake Life, which is open now with no set hours while  store manager Lisa Whitaker revamps the space so more items can be displayed.

The official opening in the Lake Norman Chamber/VLN building is planned for mid-September.

Dream of owning a business

Whitaker had a dream of opening a boutique to use her experience as a manager at retail clothiers and her passion to help people. She has worked as a veterinary technician, a care giver and had a small micro-blading business. She was the care giver to Free’s wife and Free says he thinks of her as extended family.

“It was the right time, the right space,” Whitaker says.

Lisa Whitaker

The pair has gotten input from a design consultant, purchased merchandise from a boutique that closed and ordered another 400 pieces.

Eye for fashion

Whitaker will bring a keen eye for fashion, trends and style to the business.

“Her expertise is her style,” Free says of Whitaker.


Free says he bought the small unit across the hall from his real estate office with the hope of making a few changes and turning the space into a center for information on Lake Norman.

But the application process and permit requirements for the structural changes rendered that idea unfeasible, says Free. 

The previous owner was Treasures on the Lake, a jewelry store. Free purchased the space at 19900 W. Catawba in 2018 for $90,000. 

Free says he has invested about $6,000 so far for the sign and to upfit the space.