Style Movers, Shakers and Makers: Four Sonoma Women Entrepreneurs Thriving in Retail

Sonoma County is known for its many sipping and supping options. But in between tasting rooms and bistros, there are some very fine boutiques with fashionable buys available.

At a closer look, one can see that much of that style originates right here in Sonoma through keen-eyed curation and sometimes actual product creation to get “the look” of wine country. Some stores sell that wine country style to a wide customer base via their online presences.

But the best story is the people making the magic through sheer drive, passion and quest for expression through style. Sonoma’s own entrepreneurs are making their small business mark in a big box world. Here are four women, all who grew up in Sonoma County, who run thriving businesses, that are, really, anything but small.

Small Business Success, Punch Clothing

When Punch Clothing owner Ru Scott is asked about the secret of her 20-year success in the retail business, she says, “I’ve never stopped working. I never took it for granted.” Scott, a FIDM graduate and longtime Sonoma resident, says she puts in hard, consistent work as well as care and passion in bringing fashion to Sonoma County.

When Scott moved back to Sonoma County after living in New York City for a few years she was struck by the lack of small retail businesses in the area. Having adopted a steady diet of boutique shopping in New York, Scott says, “I wasn’t about to go to a mall.” So in 1997, she opened Punch on Main Street in Sebastopol.

Punch Clothing, which has high fashion finds for all ages -“the store has grown up with me,” Scott says – has three locations, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and online, which sells to customers internationally.

Her place on Instagram gives her stock a showing to 11,000 followers, fueling Punch’s online sales. But her staff of twelve women in Punch’s two stores create “an honest, up-to-date” and “truly personal shopping experience” for her regular customers as well as tourists, says Scott. 

Punch Clothing, 711 4th St. Santa Rosa, 707-526-4766, 387 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg, CA 707-395-0022, shoppunchclothing.com

Local Big Time, Ooh La Luxe

A boutique with a hundred-thousand plus followers on Instagram. “Collabs” with follower-rich celebrities. A booming online business and three “Cali” stores. Sounds like details of an L.A. fashion success story. But these are the accomplishments of Ooh La Luxe, the retailer selling easy, feminine and often va-va-voom looks, based in lil ol’ wine country.

Owned by longtime Sonoma County residents – twin sister design and entrepreneurial duo, Cristina Wilson Hudlin and Michelle Wilson Bien – Ooh La Luxe offers California inspired fashion in three storefronts: Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Petaluma. The store has their own line of in-house designed and L.A.-manufactured items, and they curate the rest of the their BOHO-funky-feminine finds from small batch makers within the U.S.

Celebrity endorsers like Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher, Brittney Aldean and Stella Hudgens select Ooh La Luxe looks and Instagram them to their bajillion followers. Ooh La Luxe partner Michelle Wilson said the store has enjoyed a yearly doubling of their business since they opened.

Among Wilson Hudlin’s and Wilson Bien’s designs are graphic tees, which are made in partnership with a Sonoma-based graphic designer and printed in Sonoma. Ooh La Luxe features a festival line, and they will be present and blogging at Coachella this year to glean design and curation inspiration from the funky festival style being sported under the blistering California desert sun.

Oohlaluxe, 326 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, 109 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma,  707-769-7787, 1019 Santa Rosa Plaza in Santa Rosa, 707-566-4735, oohlaluxe.com

On Target in Cotati, Bow N Arrow Clothing

Bow N Arrow Clothing boutique has lots wonderful about it: It’s the only fashion boutique in an otherwise sleepy retail scene in Cotati. It’s got an inspiring start-up story by remarkably young stylist and entrepreneur Mercedes Hernandez, age 23. Prices are affordable. And the style which Hernandez calls “Bohemian modern” is stocked in all sizes.

Hernandez says the clothing ranges from “conservative to Coachella” and she purposely keeps the prices low. Having worked in the mall since age 14, Hernandez really sought to offer unique boutique finds, but the young women who flock to her line can’t afford boutique prices.

When asked about her ability to keep prices low, she says, “I just don’t mark it up.”

“The thing about being an entrepreneur,” Hernandez says, “is you don’t know what to expect, but you just go for it.” Her thriving business with an “overwhelming response” in Cotati led to the opening of a second location in San Rafael. Four months after opening in November, she decided to close it in favor of finding a location in Santa Rosa where her product is better known.

Hernandez has been “itching” to design pieces herself and recently began selling her own embellished vintage finds she calls the Gramps Collection after her grandfather: band shirts that she buys second hand which she “re-distresses” and adds patches, fringes or flannel to. These sell out within the first hour of them appearing on the sales floor so she struggles to keep with up with demand.

Bow N Arrow Clothing, 8200 Old Redwood Hwy, Cotati, 707-242-3027, bownarrowclothing.com

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