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Très Chic Boutique to bid adieu

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Midtown’s Très Chic Boutique announced this week that it will close its doors for good after 18 years in business.

Owner Susan Tiesing, 53, said she decided to shutter the business by the end of May due to the impact of the economy as well as her need to be in Oroville to be with a family member in poor health.

“I left my shop with my worthy store manager, and I think in this tough economy you can’t expect your business to continue on without you there,” Tiesing said. “Although I think she did a good job, I wasn’t there to manage it myself.”

The shop, located at 2228 J St., specialized in prom dresses and clothing for special occasions.

Tiesing said this is the first year she has seen online sales take a large cut of her business, and though she said she heard “horror stories” from customers coming in to shop at the last minute when they were unhappy with their online orders, it made it hard for the business to run properly.

“I have to price cut to get them to stay,” she said. “I lose my profit margin, and you should never stay in business if you’re forced to cut your prices to the point where you’re selling at basically your cost just to keep them coming in.”

Despite closing the store, Tiesing said she enjoys owning the business and plans to reopen the business when the economy turns around – but likely not in Midtown.

She said the city’s removal of parking meters and switch to computerized pay boxes about three or four years ago caused many of her customers from outlying areas to stop shopping in the district.

She said she believes the city’s removal of the familiar coin-operated parking meters in favor of the new pay boxes caused confusion among some of her customers, who aren’t accustomed to using them. She added that the quick ticketing done by parking enforcement officers drove them off.

Lauren Lundsten, owner of Swanberg’s for Men: Hawaiian Shirts & More, located at 2316 J St., said he saw the same decline in business once the parking meters were uprooted.

“I bet we lost 10 percent of our business at that point,” he said. “The system chases away business.”

Lundsten said he would like to see the time limit on the street parking increased to two hours from one hour, but even that wouldn’t solve the issue.

“A lot of my customer base is seniors,” he said. “The pay boxes can be confusing, and if they get a ticket, it’s $52. I’m lucky if I can sell them a $20 shirt. A lot of them – if they get a ticket, that’s the last time they’ll shop downtown.”

In business for the past 15 years, Lundsten said he is sad to see Très Chic Boutique close.

“She’s been here for quite a while, and like me, she has a niche business,” he said. “It comes in seasons, and it’s hard to pay for those lean months when the good months aren’t very strong. I feel like I’m swimming upstream.”

Midtown Business Association Executive Director Elizabeth Studebaker said that the organization is working with the city to develop better parking options – including working out a system to have private office lots be available to the public after hours and on weekends.

“I sincerely feel it’s a negative thing for Midtown that Très Chic Boutique is closing,” Studebaker said. “They have a long history of being a well-established business here.”

As the boutique winds down its business, Tiesing said she will be putting the store’s inventory on sale starting Thursday.

“I’m choosing a time when I have a very good inventory so my sale will be full of great finds for my customers and not just odds and ends,” she said. “I’ve been down here for a long time, and I will miss it.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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