For the best shot at success, a boutique owner generally wants to situate her store in a popular shopping area. Unless you’re Amber Toste, who saw opportunity where no designer fashion had gone before.
She opened Houndstooth two and a half years ago next to a Mexican restaurant in a strip center in Savage. She started with a few pieces of J Brand and Genetic Denim—brands readily available at 50th & France or Mall of America but never before sold south of the river. “I live down here,” says Toste, “and I’ve always hated having to go to Nordstrom or the Galleria area.”
Today, the racks of her Savage store—still the sole boutique for miles around—are filled with a trendy mix of dresses, tops, and jeans from coveted contemporary brands such as Diane von Furstenberg, Alice by Temperley, and Joie. Now Edina women come to her. Toste is also a master at social networking and customer service, so advance and special orders are a big part of her business.
Bolstered by her success in the southern suburbs, Toste decided last summer to open a second store in Eden Prairie. True, there’s more retail in Eden Prairie than Savage, but not as much of the better brands Toste believes suburban women crave. The Eden Prairie Houndstooth is just across the parking lot from Eden Prairie Center. The store is large and bright and spare by design. In Uptown or Edina, it would be hopping. In Eden Prairie, surrounded by service shops and fast food, it’s been slow to catch on. If only the hockey moms knew premium denim and sequined tunics were available right along the carpool route.
Toste is undeterred. “There are a lot of women in the Eden Prairie, Chaska, Chanhassen area looking for that special piece. I’ll definitely go the extra mile to gain and keep their business.”
Toste is the type of shop owner who never forgets a name. She looks out for her customers. She orders more larges than the average boutique. She surprises regular shoppers with occasional 25 percent off coupons.
Toste says she’s trained her Eden Prairie staff in the same vein, although it might help if she could clone herself. You’ll find her at the Eden Prairie Houndstooth on Sundays. Or, get a daily dose on Facebook, where she reveals her favorite new arrivals.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” Toste says. “It’s really fulfilling.” 582 Prairie Center Dr., Ste. 223, Eden Prairie, 952-261-2974; 5749 Egan Dr., Savage, 952-440-2807, houndstoothboutique.com