By Scott Carlson
Molly Breen and Alicia Lacy have found their Niche, literally and figuratively.
The two women in late March officially debuted Niche, their retail women’s apparel shop, at 2506 W. University Ave. in south St. Anthony Park (just east of Highway 280). Their shop is an ethical women’s boutique, only selling apparel and accessories produced by vendors who provide employees safe working conditions and treat and pay them fairly.
Breen and Lacy began Niche three years ago, running it as a summer seasonal concept out of Nisswa, a Minnesota resort town near Brainerd. They also staged “pop up” versions of Niche in the Twin Cities. The inspiration for Niche came after the two women took a trip to Palm Springs, California and saw a plethora of independent and vintage shops along one of the town’s major shopping thoroughfare.
Lacy and Breen liked the idea of independent shops and also saw a role for women to take that model and help build community and honor ethical business practices. Consumer response to their fledgling stagings of Niche were so strong that Breen and Lacy decided to open a permanent brick-and-mortar shop.
The two women said that besides carrying out an ethically-inspired business, they are endeavoring to keep their apparel affordable, with most pieces averaging $50 per item and the upper limit topping out at about $125, Alicia said. As their shop evolves, the women also want to ensure that their apparel business is adhering to sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices.
“One of our values is to be heart driven,” Molly said. “That comes before money. We need to be value driven.” While neither woman has any formal retail training, they both love clothing and are entrepreneurs at heart. Molly is the director of the St. Anthony Park Nursery School and Alicia is a professional blog writer. The women met when Lacy had her children enrolled in Breen’s preschool.
In choosing to locate their shop along University Avenue, Breen and Lacy saw an opportunity to be part of the area’s transformation, which has been spurred the light rail’s Green Line, new housing and the revitalization of the nearby Midway district.
“This part of University Avenue feels quirky,” Lacy said, explaining that an eclectic mix of businesses are springing up along their section of the major thoroughfare. “Change is coming to University Avenue and we expect to be a part of this transformation. We are excited to be a part of that energy.”