It’s been 19 years since Olivia Zinoni opened her clothing boutique in Rancho Shopping Center, a vision she created with her younger brother after the native Italians decided to stay in the U.S. following college. This week, after moving twice, she officially opens the doors to her third storefront in Los Altos.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Zinoni said of her journey, her eyes creasing as she smiled through strong sunlight.
Zinoni’s first move, from Rancho to her second storefront at 266 Main St., was spurred by the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce wanting her business in the downtown area, she said.
The second move was more by necessity than nudge. On the Olivia Boutique Facebook page, the longtime business owner posted an announcement May 13 that she would be relocating down the street to 315 Main after being “unable to get a promise that ensures consistency at (her 266 Main St.) location for years now.”
“I believe, at least the way we’ve been raised, that when a door closes … there’s always another one opening,” Zinoni said. “I’m a very positive person.”
That door opened when Zinoni called on the realtor for the 315 Main site, who already knew of her long career in Los Altos. She didn’t think twice, signing the lease and getting the keys the first time they met.
Zinoni likes her new shop, with better visibility from the street and a new design aimed at teleporting customers from downtown Los Altos to an upscale showroom off the streets of Milan during Fashion Week. Fashion Week is where Zinoni finds inspiration for her new collection and brings home pieces six months in advance. Her February trip yielded the fall/winter designs for Olivia Boutique, and so on.
From where she was sitting on a park bench in front of her new digs, Zinoni discussed the pressure she experienced to make the new location better than the last. She regularly received compliments from her clients, primarily booked through appointment, as well as visitors who just wanted to say hello, about work put into the 266 Main shop. With picture windows and a new color scheme, Zinoni collaborated with her brother Samuele to renovate the 315 Main space into something they love in just a month – the previous lease expired May 31 and she opened the first week of July.
“The challenge was that we had to do something even better,” Zinoni said. “(The space) was a different shape and everything. But the result that came out of it, I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so in love with my store.’”
Beyond aesthetics, Zinoni has two commodities on her side: merchandise that cannot be found anywhere else in the vicinity of Los Altos (or most of the country, for that matter) and the mission to give anyone who walks into the boutique her undivided attention.
“Either you have to come to my store or you have to travel to Europe,” she said. “You cannot get them at the mall or online. That’s one of the things that makes my store special.”
Zinoni’s clients hail from nearby and across the country. The boutique operator laughed as she described a recent client’s visit from Texas; the customer reached out to Zinoni about needing new clothing while she was visiting, and not wanting to disappoint, Zinoni allowed her to come in among lingering construction and brown paper in the windows.
Zinoni credits her success to that mentality: going above and beyond for her clients (almost always turned friends).
“I wanted to do this like boutiques are actually run in Italy, so our thing is more customer service,” she said. “Most of my clients have my cellphone number. I do go to their homes, I do their closets. I’ll source specific pieces just for them.”
There’s no definitive secret to success because no two businesses are alike, Zinoni noted. She has seen businesses come and go she was sure would outlive even hers, and it drives her to dig deep and work harder than before to ensure she can continue loving going into work every day.
“You have to work with what you have and try to make it,” Zinoni said. “In my mind, in everything I did, the word ‘failure’ was never in our vocabulary. That’s the way we were brought up. … Work honestly as much as you can and you’ll get rewarded.”
As Zinoni looks forward to the future of resuming business and traveling to Italy and Japan – beside Italian fashion, she carries a Japanese line, accessories and antique jewelry – she also reflects on the past. She said she doesn’t think she could have managed without her brother, who has a career of his own. Zinoni thinks of her clients, who have followed her from store to store, as the backbone of the operation.
“They have been so positive about my move, and the old neighbors and new neighbors … the outpouring of gifts and cards because they were so happy that I moved into the store – I couldn’t even describe it,” she said.
For more information, visit oliviaboutique.com.