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Meet the Owner: Margaret Ioannou of Azure

Bell Boulevard shop began as lingerie store, but has expanded into full clothing retailer for women.

Bayside’s Margaret Ioannou said her Bell Boulevard-based store, Azure, was founded nine years ago as a lingerie store, but has transformed into a “one-stop shop” for women’s clothing.

Ioannou, who opened the shop at 38-27 Bell Blvd. in 2004, worked as a teenager for her mother’s lingerie store in Astoria and began her career in advertising.

She then used her savings to follow in the family’s line of business.

“I worked with my mom and learned the business from her and decided, over time, to open my own store,” Ioannou said. “I saved up my money and decided to go for my dream, which was to open a retail store. I went to Bayside High School, so I knew the area well. I felt in my heart this was the right spot and that Bayside could use a store like this.”

Azure began as a lingerie store, but Ioannou began gradually ordering dresses for customers for special occasions, such as proms and weddings.

Now, the store does a lot of “personal shopping” for its customers, obtaining for them items as varied as dresses, pants, tops and costumes.

And Ioannou said she plans to continue to take the shop in new directions.

“We’re going to add more clothing to the store, so we’ll be a full-blown boutique by December,” she said. “My customers are taking me in a different direction. You have to listen to your customers.”

Azure currently sells casual wear, such as tops and jeans, to “sexy attire,” jewelry and accessories and Halloween costumes, which have been very popular, Ioannou said.

“Our most popular costumes are the angel and the devil,” she said. “They are done as high-quality corsets, so it allows for the opportunity to wear them more than once.”

The themed costumes, which range from $99 to $39, include Alice in Babeland, The Black Swan, Circus Burlesque, Carnival Queen, Minnie Mouse and the Flirty French Maid.

Earlier this week, Azure held a fall fashion show as well as showed off its 20 Halloween costumes at Bayside’s Plum Restaurant.

“They are surpassing the sales of other vendors,” Ioannou said of the costumes. “We have a 50-plus waiting list.”

The store’s tops typically sell for $39, while its dresses range between $49 and $59. Azure’s higher priced evening gowns are $200.

“We have moderate prices, especially for this economy,” Ioannou said. “We offer the best quality for less.”

The store also offers bra and corset fittings. Every other month, Azure hosts a “girls night out” evening of shopping, during which the store hands out champagne and strawberries to customers.

“You can invite 10 of your friends and have the store to yourself to shop,” Ioannou said. “There’s no admission, but there are discounts.”

Ioannou, who recently opened a second Azure store in Bellmore, said her current mission is to spread the word to northeast Queens residents about her shop’s latest and upcoming offerings.

“I really want to show people that we’ve gone into fashion,” she said. “We’re growing in that direction. It’s a one-stop shop. You can get everything you want, from a bra extender to an outfit you’d wear out at night. We have a broad range of selections.”

Azure is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call 718-428-1114.

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