Lingerie shop fits need for breast cancer survivors

Bonnie Bell, owner of B&B's Health Boutique in Winchester, stands inside her nonprofit shop that provides lingerie for breast cancer patients and survivors. Bell is also a breast cancer survivor and said it's difficult for women who haven't had reconstructive surgery to find lingerie that fits. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — Bonnie Bell knows what it’s like dressing for life after breast cancer.

Diagnosed in the early 1990s and again in the late ’90s, she said one of the hardest parts of moving on after a mastectomy was finding a bra that fit.

“Took me 14 years to find that one right bra,” she said.

Most of her customers at B&B Health Boutique in Winchester have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, but Bell said her store caters to all women.

A certified bra fitter, Bell opened her store in 2008 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. She started selling fine lingerie two years ago and said about 25 percent of her sales come from women looking for specialty bras or those who want a fitting.

In January she moved the nonprofit business to 2217 Papermill Road, Winchester.

“Being in [the business] for so long, I know my bras,” she said.

Many lingerie shops employ sales associates who don’t have certifications, Bell said, “[But] they don’t understand what it takes to be a fitter.”

Specialty or not, what matters is how a bra is designed.

“It’s how it’s sewn,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

“The band, the cup, the straps — they work together,” she said.

Her store offers name brands that include Panache, Freya, Bare Necessities, Montelle Intimates, Goddess and American Breast Care. When necessary, Bell customizes a fit by adding prosthetics.

Prices, she said, are comparable to those at Victoria’s Secret. Her store also sells swimsuits, sports bras and sleepwear, as well as organic shampoo, wigs and headscarves.

“The scarves I take seriously,” Bell said. “Not everyone can afford, nor do they like wearing wigs.”

The scarves she sells are comfortable to wear and easy to wash, she said.

B&B is short for Breast & Body Health Inc. and combines a nonprofit 501(c)3 she used to call Sisters United. By changing the name and combining the nonprofit organization with her business, she said she’s able to apply for national grants that support her customers who struggle for money.

She works with about 10 insurance companies so far, but said her nonprofit also covers customers who can’t afford her prices.

“I’m able to pay for their co-pays if they don’t have money,” she said. “I can put food on your table.”

She said gift cards from local grocery stores can greatly assist some of her customers, and preparing food for them through her meals program eases concerns of cancer patients too exhausted to cook for themselves or their families.

Cooking was the most helpful thing she recalled her friends and family doing for her while she was receiving treatments.

Bell also has plans to team with a certified counselor.

“I’m looking at that patient from the time they are sick to the time they are well.”

B&B’s is open at 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Thursdays they’re open late until 7 p.m., Saturdays until 5 p.m. and other days until 6 p.m. Contact the store at 540-313-4705 or https://www.facebook.com/bbhealthboutique.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com