When Georganne Bryant thought about opening her own boutique, she researched boutiques in L.A. — you know, the stark shops in super-edgy 'hoods that buzz customers in — and found exactly what she didn't want. Bryant wanted to peddle her wares in the north central Phoenix neighborhood she calls home.
So she talked to her then-teenage daughter. Bryant's kid said, "Look for a place near Stinkweeds." Bryant listened. She looked. Her idea of what she imagined would be a "sleepy little dry-goods store" snowballed. Six months later — and smack-dab next to Kimber Lanning's Stinkweeds record store — Bryant opened Frances, a quirky boutique named for her grandmother (a well-accessorized woman with a pink kitchen) where you can find everything from a Bauer bowl to a Topo Ranch T-shirt. (Read more about our favorite boutique.)
A five-year survivor of breast cancer, Bryant has perspective — and no desire to leave her neighborhood. She'll soon launch an online store (for those non-Phoenicians of the world who crave her assortment of men's, women's and baby clothing, vintage wares, art, accessories, gifts and paper goods) but has no plans to open other locations.
Frances will stay an original.
Inspired by renegade craft fairs in places like Chicago and Brooklyn, Bryant is constantly re-evaluating her merchandise. She digs the concepts of local and handmade.
She admits that buying is the most challenging (and fun) aspect of the business. Having just returned from a San Francisco buying trip, she's pleased that she found some well-priced holiday items. She knows that people can't spend like they did last year.
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Frances' marketing strategists — Bryant, her daughter (now 21 and away at college), and her daughter's friends — conduct meetings cross-legged on Bryant's living room floor. They make sure Frances evolves along with tastes and the economy to meet the needs of its customers: 7-year-olds, 70-year-olds, high school girls, young couples on weekends.
It works. Frances has quite a reputation. One customer boasts that she hasn't bought a birthday present anywhere else since Bryant's store opened in May 2006. Another tells a story about a party where she spotted "at least 14" Frances gift bags (telltale brown paper, distinct black and white bird-in-tree logo, funky ribbon).
"Oh, no!" Bryant laughs, when told of this. "Were there any duplicates?"
Nope, not a one.