Her eyes light up as she watches her youngest son Jonah make his way through the welcoming boutique. He’s not yet two, so he totters and wobbles, sometimes making no forward progress at all. But she laughs and reaches out, encouraging him to keep trying—to keep putting one foot in front of the other, just like she must do. He and brother Johnny IV are the inspiration that keeps her going every day as she regains her strength from a family tragedy.
Ashlie Piediscalzo has an easy way about her and is quick to smile and laugh, but her underlying sadness shows as she recounts how her business, Saving Grace Women’s and Children’s Boutique, came to be. In 2011, Ashlie met the love of her life and they were married in 2016. “Just five months later I was four weeks pregnant, the mother of a 2-year-old and a widow at 27. Johnny passed away of an undiagnosed heart condition. The coroner said he died instantly.” She takes a moment to catch her breath and digest the unbelievable words she has just spoken. “That entire year, I remember just lying in bed and crying every day at my mom’s house. I didn’t go back home for months. I couldn’t bring myself to walk past that spot where I found him. I cried out at night for him to visit me in dreams. I asked God what I did so wrong to deserve this.” She continues with a determined smile, “We had so much planned for our growing family. He was a wonderful father, an amazing husband and cared so much about family and friends. His drive and passion to support our family keeps me going. I view life differently now. I’m more empathetic to people going through loss, but I’m more driven because my kids don’t have anyone else – just me. I have to carry on for them and for Johnny.”
Ashlie’s mother and grandmother are defining influences. “My mom’s mom lost the love of her life at the exact age I lost my husband. My mom didn’t have an easy childhood and my grandmother had to raise her babies alone. Now I’m living that legacy and have their example to help me.” Earlier in life, Ashlie took sewing lessons from her grandmother, but it was while working at a boutique during college that she discovered her love for fashion. “I loved picking out clothes and coordinating the fashion shows. And later, Johnny encouraged me to pursue it. One year for my birthday he had candles all around but where the cake would be was a sewing machine.” She gets misty at the memory. “He also joked that I should own my own store to save him money on all my clothes shopping.”
Johnny’s playful advice turned into Ashlie’s saving grace as she sought to provide for her children and find new joy and inspiration after her devastating loss. “I started Saving Grace Boutique online first and then opened the store in Olde Town Slidell. Then I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?'” she laughs as she hands one son a toy and wrangles the other just before he falls. “People don’t realize what goes into it. It’s hard to juggle. Thankfully, I can rely on my employee Bailee, my sister Rebecca who works with me on her days off and my brother Devin who helps with maintenance.”
What makes it all worth it? “I’m a people person so I like meeting customers, finding out about them and dressing them. It’s fun to get them out of their comfort zone, or we can just talk. Either way, I want a relationship and to keep it affordable for them. My reason to do everything is my boys. I want them to know they can get through tough times like I did.”
The boys also inspired her to add a children’s boutique. With that expansion comes a new address nearby. “The children’s side will be separate, but in the same building and I’m excited to stay in Olde Town. It’s becoming more family oriented with something for everyone – more shopping and restaurants—it’s turning into a mini Magazine Street.”
When she’s not camping or mud riding with her boys, Ashlie finds comfort in inspiring others. She recently spoke about persevering through difficult times at the Empowered: Living Life with Purpose event. “I was so emotional I could hardly choke out the words, but my message was that no matter what you’re going through, if you seek God, he’ll help you find something to fight for. I’ve also learned that living in the moment is way more important than worrying about tomorrow or yesterday. Life is short and fragile, so enjoy the moment. Take the pictures. Take the videos. Cherish every second with those you love most.”
Saving Grace Women’s and Children’s Boutique is located at 2259 Carey Street in Slidell. For more information, call (985) 265-4129 or visit facebook.com/slidellwomenandchildrenboutique.