Like her guitar-playing husband, Carolina Loiacono hopes to strike a chord and gather an appreciative crowd with her creative offerings.
In a unique test-market trial, Carolina Boutique has announced the opening of a satellite store for the holidays in Pacheco Plaza in Novato. The expansion into her hometown comes three years after Loiacono opened her first store in Mill Valley at 76 Throckmorton Ave. If it's well-received, she will seriously consider a permanent presence there.
Loiacono, a Cuban-born mother of two whose husband is Greg Loiacono of the famed Bay Area band the Mother Hips, has been involved in fashion on and off since her college days. Although she earned a degree in psychology, the fashion bug won out and she soon found herself working in apparel manufacturing and again later as a clothing rep.
Style, fashion and artistry seem ingrained in her life. She recalls that an early employer at a fashion boutique once told her that one day she would have her own store, so she learned how to run the store and enjoyed ordering the sales inventory.
Loiacono’s mother-in-law has been doing antique shows at the Marin County Civic Center for years. Her cousin, Renee Sheppard, has a high-end diamond jewelry business that has been featured in both Elle and In Style magazines. (Carolina Boutique happens to be the only shop in Marin to carry the jewelry line.)
If those connections aren’t artistic enough, her husband is rocker Greg Loiacono of the Mother Hips. The hard-working guitarist has been at it for 22 years since first joining bandmates while at Chico State. The band, which has a free-spirited, indie-rock, jam-band style, has made a dozen albums.
Carolina Loiacono’s Mill Valley store has also seen its own share of celebrities over the past few years. Among some of the regulars are Bonnie Raitt, Melora Hardin of The Office, local singer/songwriter Nicki Bluhm, and Stella & Dot’s co-founder Blythe Harris.
The new satellite store at 444 Ignacio Boulevard is a venture beyond the clothing and accessories offered at the Mill Valley store. Loiacono has brought in home and gift items such as housewares, throw pillows, candles, lotions and holiday ornaments. It also features Loiacono’s handpicked designer brand fashions as well as a selection of jewelry from local designers whom she says she “passionately supports.”
Carolina Boutique also established an online store in February 2011, and Loiacono has found that many of her customers come into the store wanting to see something that they saw on her website.
“Sometimes they tell me that they just want to have the Carolina experience first-hand,” Loiacono said.
Despite her busy life as a mom and store owner, Loiacono still plans on spending two to three days working at her Mill Valley store. “Are we ever going to see you again?” has been a common question coming from Mill Valley customers who have heard about her new Novato venture. But not only does her mother-in-law live there, her husband plays pretty often at the Sweetwater, too.