Archive for July, 2006

Neighborhood Boutiques are local treasures

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

As a personal shopper and wardrobe stylist, I always get asked the same question; “Where do YOU shop?”.  This question is harder to answer than you think, not because I don’t have a multitude of really great places to shop.  It is more about finding a great place and slowly discovering all of the gems held within.  So here is my first installment of “Maureen’s Merchants”. Utopia, 6466 Moraga Ave. in Montclair village.  (510)339-1002, www.utopiamontclair.com  Utopia is the relative newcomer to Montclair village.  Mother and daughter team, Nancy Ekstrom and Melissa Munyer opened Utopia just a little over a year ago.  Nancy is a Montclair resident and Melissa hails from Sausalito with a PhD. in psychology to boot.  Nancy and Melissa make a great team with style to burn.  They try to carry lines that you won’t see in every other store or boutique.

Considering they have only been open a year, Utopia is really creating a ‘buzz’.  They get a lot of their customers from word-of-mouth marketing and have built a lot of local loyalty.  Utopia’s target market is definitely the Montclair and Piedmont woman.  Melissa and Nancy carry a lot of local designer’s lines, and insist they try on every piece they sell.  That way, they can comment on a wide array of fit issues.  Utopia carries shoes from Italy and Brazil, handbags, hats and some one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.  They carry singer Beyonces mother’s line called House of Dereon, and a line of great fitting jeans called Pure Color that were featured on Oprah.

Tootsie’s, 5525 College Ave. in Rockridge. (510)595-7272.  Carrie Bradshaws take note, if your opinion of the perfect day includes buying several pairs of cute shoes, then Tootsies is your place!  Tootsies carries over 200 styles of shoes, and at this time of year, that means SANDALS!  This is a veritable playground for the shoe-aholic.  Walk in and you are immediately transported into a kind of shoe high.  You’re not sure of what to try on first….your mouth is a little dry…you’re eyes looked a little glazed over…..you take a deep breath and start trying on.

Tootsies has also been open just over a year, and already has gained the reputation of being the place for sandals.  Tootsies also offers amazing spa pedicures.  Owner Liz Taylor also will schedule pedicure parties on Thursday and Friday nights or by appointment.  This is a great idea for a bachelorette party or shower. Once the polish is dry, you can pick out a trendy pair of sandals, most with a price tag less than a dinner out!

Serrahna, 5303 College Ave. in Rockridge, (510)654-2332, www.serrahna.com  Immediately upon entering Serrahna, you feel as if you have been transported to a far away place.  The colors are saturated and rich, and are candy for the eyes.  For owner and designer Andrea Serrahn, that’s exactly the way she wants you to feel.  She visits India several times a year to scout fabrics and check on the hand cut and hand sewn production..   Serrahna is that rare boutique where time seems to fly by.  After shopping there for what seems like a long time, as you head for the door your eye settles on something that sucks you right back in!

Serrahnas clothing is flowing and ethnic, but also fitted and stylish. Serrahn has taken the spirit of India’s native dress, and reinterpret it to fit today’s woman.  Serrahn and her staff are very skilled at putting their pieces together in a way that might not have occurred to you.  Whether you are looking for a top to go with jeans or an entire outfit, they are up to the task.  Serrahna is designed for the “real” woman, with “real” figures.

Serrahna also holds several fashion shows during the year so be sure to get on their mailing list.  Serrahna’s website is great, and you can order directly from it.  It also offers information on the craftsmen and women that are such an integral part of Serrahna’s look.  Andrea feels a real responsibility and has embarked on numerous goodwill projects, including raising money to buy a community sewing machine.

I will continue to highlight some of what I think are interesting and eclectic boutiques in our neighborhoods.  I’d love to hear about reader’s favorites as well.  E-mail me at maureen@maureenfrench.com with your suggestions!