Kristen Heath: Mixologist to fashionista

Susan EspirituSouth Knox

The opening line caught my attention: My name is Kristen Heath. I am a bartender at Knox Farmacy and I am opening a women’s clothing boutique in the Kerns Bakery building.

Say what?

Embracing new experiences and possessing a fearless spirit have always defined Kristen Heath’s character, as she has done the unexpected at most every turn in her life’s journey.

A Knoxville native, Kristen and a friend ventured to the northwest in her early twenties and spent what she terms an incredible eight-year adventure in Seattle. Then she ventured back south to Savannah. After a bit of homesickness combined with a husband who wanted mountains, Kristen moved back to Knoxville.

Despite her adventurous side, Kristen’s consistency had been working in restaurants her whole life so her original dream was to open an Asian restaurant as an homage to her grandfather. Her paternal grandfather was Chinese and although she never met him, he always provided such a fascinating mystery to Kristen that she imagined opening a funky Asian place named after him.

Years passed and the restaurant dream did not materialize until one day Kristen was driving home from work when once again that curious spirit to explore the unknown surprised her and the idea to open a boutique just “popped into my head.”

Kristen immediately saw the store in her mind exactly how it would look and even the type of clothes she wanted to offer. She believes it was definitely a what-she-had-been-waiting-on kind of moment.

Not long after her epiphany of opening a boutique, the Kerns building popped up on Kristen’s social media, and within less than a month she had signed a lease. Then 2020 Covid slowed things down and pushed back the original opening date, but not Kristen who has taken advantage of the extra time.

Kristen Heath knows the styles for her Mae Lee boutique

During the wait to open the brick-and-mortar store, the last couple of years have allowed Kristen to set up the website, hold pop-up retail events, develop a clientele, and learn much about the industry.

“If you had ever told me I was going to open a clothing store I would have looked at you like you were crazy,” says the woman who claims the motto for herself and her store: ‘She’s no ordinary girl.’

“Deciding to open Mae Lee’s has been the best decision of my life. I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve received and I can’t wait to get open in Kerns!!

Why name her boutique Mae Lee? Mae is for Kristen’s maternal grandmother Mavis and Lee for her Chinese paternal grandfather for whom she had once planned to name an  Asian restaurant.

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