Olivia Huvane and Amy Gray hit it off as soon as they met six years ago, as young professional women starting their families while commuting to Manhattan from Bronxville, N.Y.
The fast friends supported each other through childcare and career—Huvane raising two young boys while working in fashion, Gray with two girls, a hedge fund’s accountant manager.
In December, months after Huvane lost her husband to cancer (“It was a turning point, a shift in priorities,” she said), the women began exploring the possibility of launching a business together, something neither had ever done. They researched online and discovered Scout & Molly’s, a unique woman’s fashion boutique franchising model that launched in 2002.
“There is really no other boutique for women that is of this caliber, the quality and that we can select all of the clothes we carry,” Huvane said on a recent morning.
“I worked in fashion for almost 15 years and I was really impressed and loved that we had a lot of creative control. We have a whole portfolio that we carry but we make our own selections, so this will involve getting to know our customers in New Canaan. They don’t want the same things as a lady in Charlotte. So we have control over that and the ability to make it all our own.”
Scout & Molly’s is set to open at 108 Elm St. (just past the Whitney Shop) around Aug. 20 and they’ll participate in this year’s Sidewalk Sale (on Saturday, July 18). (Here’s the New Canaan Scout & Molly’s Facebook page and soon-to-launch website.)
New Canaan is a perfect location for the boutique in part, Huvane and Gray said, because the women who live here have multiple roles in their lives.
“One reason I like Scout & Molly’s is that we kind of had this issue where we want to go shopping and you can’t go to the mall with kids, it’s not possible, but we wanted the best value and great quality and something that’s versatile for all parts of life,” Huvane said. “You may go to the city for a show and dinner, or you’re doing some volunteering with the Junior League and you need something for a cocktail party, or you’re working or going to a carpool pickup—so there are these different elements to our lives. We are young and fashionable and we want to find a place where we have one-stop shopping for a variety of styles and price points, that is unique and that can standalone. We really feel like the New Canaan community is great for that, because there are a lot of younger high school girls there and that definitely will be part of our customer base, and then there is the new mother who is just figuring out a new role and also has children and is thinking about what to wear, there is the woman who is on maternity leave and there are is the more established mom going back to the workforce, so we felt like there was a perfect woman for us there [in New Canaan].”
New Canaan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tucker Murphy said Scout & Molly’s has already joined and has demonstrated not just an affinity but a commitment to New Canaan—Gray is preparing to move to the west side of town, they’re hiring local workers now and are seeking other ways to get involved here.
“We love what they’re doing,” Murphy said. “They picked New Canaan out of so many other towns.”
Scout & Molly’s Founder & Chief Operating Officer Lisa Kornstein said she is “typically quite skeptical when women who are friends want to go into business together, but within five minutes of meeting Amy and Olivia I knew they would balance each other perfectly in this business and that they are perfect for Scout & Molly’s.”
“New Canaan is about to fall in love with the town’s newest boutique and its owners,” Kornstein said.
Gray said she fell in love with New Canaan immediately. One of her early visits two weeks ago was to Gingerbitz across the street and the owner there encouraged her to come back and try some cupcakes and freely offered advice on the best places to go with kids for a show and other things to do.
“Everyone was friendly and they go out of their way to make you feel involved and off on the right foot,” said Gray, a Richmond, Va. native who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Virginia Tech, earned her CPA license and then switched to finance.
The shop is not only hiring local workers but will be able to carry local artisans’ jewelry and merchandise, Huvane said.
“We are really looking forward to supporting New York and Connecticut designers and artists,” said Huvane, a native of the Pacific northwest who moved to San Francisco after high school, attended art school at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and then studied advertising, marketing and communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Longer term, the pair would like to open an additional shop in each of Fairfield and Westchester Counties, Huvane said.
“We’re hoping to have three stores and really be a part of people’s lives,” she said. “I worked in retail for a long time and worked in a boutique in Bronxville in college, still some of my best friends today are customers at that store. We really want this to feel like you’re shopping in your best friend’s closet, with no pressured sales, to go and feel good and have fun and connect.”