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Mimi Harney Offers Fun Fashion at Parlour in Millerton

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Mimi Harney at Parlour, her fashion boutique in Millerton

Fashion is not usually a high priority for women who live in the country, but Mimi Harney knows that many rural residents don’t want to dress like lumberjacks or prep school headmistresses.  Last week, on Valentine’s Day, she opened a clothing store called Parlour on Millerton’s Main Street, which carries an eclectic assortment of clothes and accessories for women who think getting dressed should be fun. “I carry a lot of indie lablels,” says Mimi, pointing out a cc-couture silk blouse ($96)and a winsome spring trench by Tulle ($140). Like many women in the region, Mimi has long been frustrated by the limited options for clothes shopping.  “I worked in sales and marketing for Harney Tea for twelve years, and I would always go shopping on business trips,” she said. “I would visit these great boutiques in San Francisco and imagine opening one myself.”  When the tea company bought a building for its retail tea room a few years ago, her husband, Paul (who she met while working at the company) offered her a 115 square-foot space for a store she could run on weekends. “I didn’t have to buy much to fill it,” she says. “I didn’t know about having a target audience. I was buying what I thought was cool.”

Rural Intelligence StyleThe little shop, which she called Parlour, developed a devoted following of locals and weekenders. “A lot of my customers who live in the city don’t have time to shop during the week,” she explains.  Last year, Joan Osofsky of Hammertown Barnasked Mimi if she would like to open a store with her in Millerton. They unveiled 7 Dutchess last summer, but the location did not draw walk-ins and customers were apparently confused by the intermingling of clothing and home furnishings.  When a corner storefront suddenly became available last fall on Millerton’s Main Street, Mimi grabbed it and decided to fly solo. It’s a lot to juggle with a two year old son, so Mimi relies on her mother, Leela Dinunzio, who helps in the shop and with babysitting at home.

Though Mimi says she has a lot to learn about retail, she set a sales record on opening day. “And I’m not even fully stocked,” she says. As someone who went to an office nearby every day for 12 years, she understands the multifaceted wardrobe needs of local women. “We have great jeans, Frye boots, dresses and tops that you can wear to work or to a party,” she says. “I try to keep things not too expensive,” she continues, nodding to a peasant-style blouse ($36) and a funky plaid dress ($88) that affords a woman the opportunity to take a fashion risk. “I want to make sure no one ever leaves with buyer’s remorse.”

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 02/19/09 at 02:55 PM • Permalink