After a successful six years in northeast Minneapolis, Parc Boutique has expanded its “casual basics” to a shop near 50th and France in Edina. Opening a second store has “been in the back of my mind for the past two years,” owner and fashion guru Thao Nguyen says. So when a space opened up in Edina, she knew she had to take it.
A University of Minnesota alumna with a degree in retail merchandising and business management, Nguyen left Minnesota after graduation for San Francisco as a business analyst for Gap corporate. “I loved living out there,” she says, “but I spent my weekends going to boutiques and that’s what really opened up my eyes.” She couldn’t remember Minneapolis having a boutique scene, let alone one as vibrant as San Francisco’s, so the creative juices started flowing.
Deciding that the Gap wasn’t for her, Nguyen moved home and discovered she was right about the boutiques in Minneapolis: “I wasn’t seeing that scene like casual basics, $150 and under … there was a void,” she says. So Nguyen spent a year sketching out a business plan with the help of her father, also a small business owner, and Triet, her then boyfriend, now husband. The success of the store is largely a credit to that support team, she says. Her store opened in 2008. “It was a struggle for the first few years,” Nguyen admits. She watched stores around her fall to the down market. But her plan was to focus on her customers. “I got to know what they like, what they wear… I figured out the target market real quick,” she says.
Familiarity with the customers’ style is her game plan for Edina, too. “I’m hoping to get to know who they are and tailor [the store] toward the Edina customer,” Nguyen says. The Parc Boutique atmosphere shoppers are familiar with at the northeast store will be present, but with a few changes. Where the northeast location focuses on clothing, with jewelry and accessories, the Edina store will carry more apothecary items, “where you can pronounce pretty much all the ingredients,” she says, and jewelry and accessories, with just a few racks of clothing.
Some of the brands that Parc Boutique shoppers know and love will be available, “but I’m going to introduce a few new brands,” Nguyen says. Shoppers can expect four or five of the brands they see on the shelves to be local designers, including Minneapolis’ Solid Manufacturing Co. and a special collaboration with Hackwith Design House by local Lisa Hackwith.
“We could not be more excited to be a small part of the new Parc store,” says Erin Husted, director of operations for Hackwith Design House. Parc Boutique was one of Hackwith’s first wholesale accounts, so the designer-seller relationship between the two is especially strong. Owner Lisa Hackwith has come up with designs specifically for the new store, Husted says, “and Thao curated them to appeal to her new clientele there.” A sweater and kimono will be just a few of the special collaboration pieces perfect for fall, and you can be sure that Nguyen will point them out to you.
“Thao really knows what her customers want and has an excellent eye,” Husted says, which is apparent in her hand-picked manner of buying for the store. “I’m very particular about what comes into the shop,” Nguyen says. For example, the apothecary items will be hand-made, and organic when possible. And her personal style reflects her shop, with casual basics that can be dressed up or down, so customers can wear an item during the day and transition it to night, which, she says, is the key to a flexible wardrobe. “I pretty much know all my customers [at the Northeast shop] so I’m excited to meet those at the Edina shop” and get to know their style, she says.
As for the location in the 50th and France neighborhood, the benefits are numerous. “It’s family-friendly, it’s obviously a great shopping destination, there’s free parking,” Nguyen says, “and I’m going to be among other great local retailers.”