Boutique Closing, But Owner Not Giving Up on Old Town

Karen Duarteau is shutting down her clothing store by the end of the year and turning her attention to her art gallery across Grant Avenue.

Although Karen Duarteau is in the process of closing her boutique in Novato's Old Town, she said she's upbeat about the future of downtown and still wants to be part of its revival.

A massive sale — 70 percent off — is taking place at two-year-old Duarteau Boutique on Grant Avenue through the end of the month. But once the shop closes, we'll see Duarteau across Grant at ARTrageous Gallery.

"The gallery is like entertainment for the folks walking before or after dinner," she said. "We have some plans for some fun things coming up."

ARTrageous will offer its space to businesses that are looking for a spot to hold cocktail parties and other gatherings, she said. There will be more trunk shows and artist events down the line, and watch for one-of-a-kind craft items and affordable gifts available for sale.

Duarteau said she is gauging interest in setting up progressive dinners in the Old Town area — where diners might start at ARTrageous during cocktail hour before bouncing from restaurant to restaurant for different courses of the meal and possibly wrap up with some entertainment. Anybody interested in devising such a plan, possibly with a prix fixe menu, should get in touch with her, she said.

Duarteau said most Old Town businesses are in favor of renovating the Novato Theater, which has been closed since 1991. Donations have been sought since a nonprofit group purchased the theater from the city in 2011. According to theater communications director Susan Bell-Warner, efforts are moving forward for some big promotional events in 2013 to help the nonprofit reach the funding threshold that would trigger the construction makeover.

"We need to get that theater open," Duarteau said. "There is a lot of potential there. ... The shoppers here are so different than they are for San Rafael. This town closes down at 4 o'clock, and it's sad. ... If we could start by making Friday night the night that people all come downtown, that would be a great start. I think they would do that if they knew the shops were open. We've got to get support from them."

On a bigger scale, Duarteau said marketing Novato as a shopping destination even to customers outside of town will help keep more businesses from closing.

"So many people who come shopping downtown have said, 'I never knew Novato had shops like this,'" she said. "They just come across this cute little downtown area with shops and restaurants. Think about the people who come down from Santa Rosa and drive past us every day on their way to the city or wherever. We're missing those people. We need them to stop and give us a look."

Meantime, there are the deals at the boutique. Duarteau said she plans to sell not only the clothing on the racks but the racks themselves, displays and mannequins.

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