Making Confidence the Best Accessory

J. Bohn Bishop Mercantile, a boutique store located at Smith Mountain Lake that sells clothes, shoes, gifts, and accessories. 

Retail therapy has a different meaning to Jessica Bishop

Photos by Ashlee Glen

Bishop is the owner of JBohnBishop Mercantile, a boutique store located at Smith Mountain Lake that sells clothes, shoes, gifts, and accessories. 

But if you told her several years ago that she would become a boutique owner, Bishop probably wouldn’t have believed you. 

“I felt like I always needed this self-assurance [growing up],” Bishop said. “I would constantly ask my mom how I looked.”

However, what was once an insecurity has now become a ministry as Bishop uses her store— and her passion for cute things—to help women feel confident. 

Bishop is no stranger of Smith Mountain Lake. Born and raised in the area, Bishop serves on the Board of Directors for the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce and has been a big advocate for helping other local businesses succeed. 

Photo by Ashlee Glen

While Bishop has been in the social retail space since 2013, she never expected to have a physical location. 

“I moved into this 10 by 10 space in 2021,” she said. “It was really supposed to be my office, but we kept building relationships with people.” 

From that space blossomed three locations: a main location at Halesford Center along with a location inside Gills Creek Marina & Lodge, and a market space in partnership with Evie’s at the Lake featuring local vendors from the area. 

“I’ve really been just following God’s direction,” she said. “Having the Mercantile has brought me a lot of joy and we’re bringing a whole new vibe to the lake.”

When describing her store, Bishop jokes that it “definitely feels like it’s owned by a millennial.” Many of the clothes and accessories are fun, bright, and bold to help people express themselves through what they wear.

“We have the trendy items, but we also have staple pieces that anyone would love in their closet but also some options that can help people branch out to try new styles,” she said. 

When she first opened the shop, Bishop knew that she wanted to fill a gap that was missing at the lake while also not taking away from the other businesses.

“Smith Mountain Lake has been mostly a retirement community,” she said. “We’re starting to see the demographic change, but we wanted to bring more people in to shop.”

But Bishop wanted it to be more than just another boutique. She wanted to make sure no one felt excluded—whether it’s a 25-year-old or retiree. 

Bishop also wanted to make sure she was bringing in great plus-size options, something that stores seem to struggle with. 

“It can be really hard to find cute plus-size clothing,” she said. “But I’m doing my research and trying to bring the best options because people want to feel confident in how they look and feel.”

Bishop said being more confident in her body is something she’s had to learn in this process. After gaining weight during the pandemic, she’s also juggled with her own insecurities. 

Photos by Ashlee Glen

“I am probably the heaviest I’ve been in my life,” she said. “But I can look back at pictures from when I was skinny and see how unhappy and miserable I was. It’s just amazing to see how God has turned it around and how I can encourage women.”

Bishop eventually was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety, and depression. She went on to start therapy and medication. The process helped show her how much God could turn her journey into something that could glorify Him. 

“After I was diagnosed, my mom said she was sorry that she didn’t see that I needed help sooner. I always told her I felt like I was sick. Before I started the healing process, I don’t think I would have been able to do this,” she said. “But [with healing] I’ve been able to let go. Having the store is honestly like a celebration of how far I’ve come since one of the darkest seasons of my life.”

Healing has also helped Bishop become more hands-off with her business too. As a marketer and creative, Bishop said it can be hard to feel like you can let go of something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

“In marketing, it’s all about your reputation,” she said. “But I also know that I have the right people on my team to make sure I can go on vacation. I want my team to feel confident that they can make decisions without consulting me on every little thing.” 

Letting go of the little things and not focusing on perfection is also the advice she’d give anyone who may want to open their own small business—or whatever they may be passionate about.

“Start with a brain dump,” she says. “That can be the best kind of therapy. Get everything out in the open that you’re scared about and ask yourself why. When you approach it that way some of these things become less scary and help you see that you can do it.”  

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