From Tom Hay
For Borderstan’s ongoing series on local entrepreneurs and retail businesses, I paid a visit with Etna and Nastassia, the mother-daughter team that owns Toucan Boutique at 1911 9th Street NW. We had met Etna during this year’s Dog Days sale on 14th Street, when their booth was set up next to our table.
Toucan Boutique opened in April 2010 and is one of the only clothing shops in their stretch of 9th Street. Just south of U Street, the area is home to many restaurants and bars and is also known as “Little Ethiopia.” Note to the guys out there: I had thought Toucan Boutique only sold women’s clothing, but they have a great selection of men’s shirts and outerwear, too.
Etna and Nastassia are originally from Brasilia, Brazil. Before Toucan Boutique opened, Etna had been a marketing director for Brazil Watch Publications and had always wanted to have her own business. Her daughter, Nastassia, who attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, was working in photo production before coming back to DC to join her mother in the business.
Borderstan: How did you select the 9th Street location?
Nastassia: I was living in the neighborhood when there had been a clothing store in this location and when I saw that the space was available, I jumped at the chance to add some diversity to this area’s businesses.
Borderstan: How does a mother-daughter team share the responsibilities of running a business?
Etna: I manage the finances and Nastassia has the eye for fashion so she handles the merchandise selection.
Borderstan: Where do you find the clothing and the designers you carry?
Nastassia: I travel to shows all over the world, including Brazil, Barcelona, Medellin and London. I look for prints and styles that will go well with DC fashion, but add something exciting to peoples wardrobes.
Borderstan: What are some of the challenges you face as a small business in the area?
Etna: We are one of the few clothing stores in this area, so it can be difficult to get people to come this far down U street without other stores around.
Nastassia: The people who come in are very supportive. People used to live over here because they could not afford Dupont Circle and other areas in downtown DC, now they want to live here because it is rapidly changing into a great neighborhood.
On October 28 Toucan Boutique will be part of Fashion District at Stroga in Adams Morgan, and on November 5 they will be the featured guests at a fashion party at Level X, also on 9th Street.