Artsy approach is key to shop’s survival in Riverwalk arts district |

Artsy approach is key to shop’s survival in Riverwalk arts district

Pat Patera

Reno’s Riverwalk development area has yielded mixed results on the retail front. The city invested public monies to construct a kayak park, attract a movie theatre and build a raised mezzanine to house a row of shops. But many retailers have tried and failed in the downtown river district.

Meanwhile, Parasols on the Riverwalk survives even thrives more than seven years later. That’s despite the 650-square-foot bird’s nest it occupies up on the riverfront mezzanine, far from any possibility of parking.

The boutique now plans a second location, says co-owner Elise Russell. It’s opening Parasols Boutique in the 440-square-foot space tucked beneath the Riverside Artists Loft. Formerly home to Bantu Spirit, the space nestles between two downtown arts district staples: Dreamers Coffee House and Sierra Arts Gallery.

“I think fashion is art,” says Russell. “We sell wearable art.” She credits the store’s survival to the unique nature of the merchandise. And while some may view an utter lack of parking as a detriment, she made the most of the pedestrian-only walkway fronting her tiny shop.

It was perfect for fashion shows, she recalls. She seated ladies at tables on the raised sidewalk served champagne, chocolate and hors d’oeuvres amidst the parade of strolling models. “I’m looking at putting together a lot of fashion shows this year,” she says, and may tie them into the Artown festival sponsored by Sierra Arts Foundation. Then at the new location, “Perhaps a strolling fashion show along the river.”

“I see the great potential of the area,” says Russell. “As a district, the downtown merchants depend on one another.

“Things are slow getting residents into the condos,” she allows. But on the plus side, she points across Virginia Street to the downtown post office, targeted for retail redevelopment.

Russell set a soft opening for the new store late this month and a grand opening the fourth Saturday in March. Parasols Boutique will carry more accessories and in a more progressive style complementary to the urban studio feel of the space, she says, rather than pick up the existing “Victorian feel of antique lace found at Parasols on the Riverwalk. “

Russell leases Parasols on the Riverwalk from Developers Diversified Realty Corpor-ation. Artspace Inc. leases out the Riverside Artists Loft, created from renovation of the historic Riverside Hotel.


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