Birds of a Feather: Parc Boutique



A couple weeks ago we had the pleasure of sitting down with Thao Nguyen, owner and creative genius behind Parc Boutique. One of the loveliest local women’s shops in the Twin Cities, Parc has two locations, one in Northeast Minneapolis and one in Edina. Both shops are impeccably curated, not only offering chic, timeless {but still on-trend} apparel, but also shoes, handmade jewelry, alternative magazines and apothecary. Thao opened the NE location seven years ago. After living in San Francisco for several years and growing to love the local boutique scene out there, she realized a boutique shopping experience was something she hadn’t encountered in her native Minnesota. So, when she decided to move back home from California, she began dreaming of starting a shop of her own. After about a year of planning, figuring out her target market, scouting products and finding a location, Parc opened and has been a Minneapolis staple ever since. In September Thao opened her second location in Edina to offer even more to her growing customer base. Below, she answers a couple of questions about being a business woman, a mother, and some of her favorite items in the shop.

White Peacock: What style does Parc Boutique embody?

Thao: We’re casual chic. You know, emphasizing T-shirts and jeans, sticking to a mid-price point, [with products of] great quality and obviously [giving customers] the boutique experience.

WP: Where do you go to find the looks you have in the store

T: We attend trade shows 3-4 times a year. So I’m always scouting what new designers come out with in the collection. But I also work with small, indie designers that don’t go to the big trade shows and see what their collections are. And it’s always good to see what the hot thing is going to be for the season, but I always, always at the end of the day, make decisions based on who the Parc customer is, where we’re located, if it’s something we could see our customers wearing. I know a certain color was hot [last season] but we didn’t pick it up because it’s not a color we see our customers wearing. When you go to our shop it’s very black, white, and grey. Pops of color here and there, but we kind of stick to that color palette. Even with cuts and styles—we always look to see what the newest thing is but always figure out what would be best for our customers.

WP: How do the Edina and NE locations differ?

T: Well, our NE location is bigger and we have a lot more merchandise. The Edina location is a lot smaller space, and the light in there is just so great that I wanted to keep it simple. So we painted it all white and kept the racks and shelves very minimal. We just have literally one of each size [for each item]. We didn’t over-stuff the racks. And we emphasized apothecary, so candles, jewelry, with an emphasis on the smaller goods and gifty items. But it’s still very much Parc. Same price point, same brands. We introduced a few more brands that we don’t have at NE that are exclusive to Edina. But yeah, less clothes, more objects.

WP: What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards of owning your own business

T: I would say, one of the biggest challenges is wearing many, many hats. I mean, I [have a hand] in everything. But that can be challenging yet rewarding because I know that I CAN do everything. But the biggest thing for me when I step back and look at my business, are the people. The people that have worked at the shop, who I’ve had relationships with after they’ve left—many students [who have] graduated and now they’re working and we become friends. But also my customers and those relationships that I make with them—seeing them come into the shop and I’m able to pick out outfits for them. It’s like having your best friend come into the shop. So, I would say the relationships I’ve had with my customers and my team.

WP: You said you wear many hats at the shop. What all do you do?

T: Well, Monday vs. Friday is a totally different day. But, first thing I do is come in and check emails. So I spend, honestly, a couple hours doing that. And then when the team comes in I give a run-down of how the day is going to go. It’s really dependent on weather. If it’s a sunny day, we know we’re going to have a busy day. We merchandise every week, so that’s always something we do, where the girls can get creative. I’ll have the occasional coffee date, meetings throughout the day or morning, and then I step out on the floor if I’m done with my back office work. I like to be on the floor, talk to my customers a bit. And then once a week Wing, from Canary Grey, comes in and we do photos for the website. So we have models come in and we shoot for a couple hours. And then a couple days after the photo shoot we get everything up online. So that’s literally just the big cycle that we do every week.

And then I try to take the weekends off to spend time with Josephine, my three-year-old, but I’m always working. I work from home, from the office, from everywhere. There really is no typical day, but I would say [many] consist of merchandising, receiving merchandise, or photoshoots, and we do look books every season too. So we’ll plan for that—that doesn’t happen overnight. That’s something that we plan months in advance. Everything from set location, to getting the right models to pulling all the looks, and then once that comes in going through all the photos and editing and making sure that everything looks really good. So those are kind of the fun things that we do. Occasionally we travel. I [just went] to New York, scouting for Fall 2015.

WP: How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?

T: That was definitely harder in the beginning. I felt like it was always work, work, work. But I feel like it had to be to get my business off on the right foot. Now that we’ve been in business for seven years, I’m able to take some time off, dedicated days off where I let my shop girls know, today’s my day off, I’m spending time with Josephine. Because I want to be a good mom. But I’m also a business woman at the end of the day. It’s just balancing the two. I guess the easiest thing is just making a schedule. Before I would be like, ‘If it’s busy I’ll work, if not I’ll take some time off.’ But now, Saturdays and Sundays are devoted to my daughter. If I have to work that’s fine, but I try to give myself a set schedule. But it’s hard. I end up somehow bringing her to the shop with me. She doesn’t mind it too much!

WP: What views on beauty and style would you like to instill in your daughter?

T: Well, she’s three years old right now, and I’ve been letting her choose some of the things [she wears]. Sometimes she’ll choose her outfits, but she really looks to me to choose some of her things. But I let her pick her accessories, what shoes she wants to wear with her outfit. I’m letting her have her own opinions on either style or comfort and just letting her be her own person, whatever style she chooses. But we started to accessorize young!

WP: Speaking of accessorizing, how do you keep your look fresh in the Winter?

T: The beanies we have in the shop seem to go with everything. You can accessorize any outfit with it and it’ll keep you warm. Also, what we’re getting right now are some greatdistressed boyfriend jeans. I know it seems kind of cold right now, with the holes and everything, but that’s something that you could definitely transition and that we just started getting in for the season, but that you could wear all spring and summer long. And leather booties. They go with everything, from dresses to jeans to sweaters. And with Minnesota weather, they’re easy to wipe clean.