Industry Insider: Thao Nguyen

The Parc Boutique owner knows how to spot a trend and develop a loyal clientele

Thao Nguyen has a knack for knowing what’s in vogue. The young owner of Parc Boutique in Northeast Minneapolis has used her sense of trends on the rise to build one of the city’s most successful small shops. The light-filled space on East Hennepin Ave. houses contemporary womens’ clothing and accessories at affordable prices points (nearly everything costs less than $150), and doesn’t sacrifice quality for trendiness.

In 2008, pre-brewery boom, Northeast was just developing into a mecca for young professionals. When Nguyen left her job working as a business analyst for the Gap corporate offices in San Francisco to move back to her native Minneapolis, the then-25-year-old snapped up the opportunity to open up shop in the growing neighborhood. “The other shopping areas—50th and France, Uptown—seemed so saturated,” says Nguyen. “I had really high hopes for Northeast.”

Courtesy of Parc Boutique and Canary Grey Photography

And her sixth sense for what’s hot is hardly limited to neighborhoods. Nguyen chooses every item to be sold at the contemporary womens’ shop herself, and she styles lookbooks each season to reflect what’s in-store and on-trend. Nguyen, who studied retail merchandising and business management at the University of Minnesota, clearly has a talent for the boutique business—but she modestly credits her success to the shop’s stylish clients and their willingness to vocalize their opinions about her picks.

It’s that customer-proprietor relationship which sets Parc apart from other boutiques, having gained a following so loyal it borders on cultlike. A rewards program, thoughtful use of social media, and staff who greet repeat customers by name are all factors in the shop’s success.

lookbook photo courtesy of parc boutique and canary grey photography

And Nguyen is creative when it comes to customer connections. Special shopping events are regular occurrences at the store: She runs a “Shop & Sip” happy hour on Friday afternoons, and the boutique is always packed. “People love happy hours after work when you get a discount on drinks,” she explains, “so we thought we’d provide the wine and give a discount on clothes.”

Between hosting events, shooting product photos for Parc’s online shop and the lookbooks with Wing Ta of Canary Grey Photography, and managing the store and her team, Nguyen still tries to achieve a work-life balance, taking one day off each week to spend with her two-year-old daughter Josephine. “She’s my real Instagram star,” laughs Nguyen. “The most rewarding thing is being able to own a small business and be a mom at the same time.”

Head to Parc Boutique on Fridays between 3 and 6 p.m. for Shop & Sip, and watch for a new lookbook later this month.
Parc Boutique, 320 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-353-4966,