Business model incorporates philanthropic mission
On Sunday morning, hours before her new North Loop apparel shop was set for its grand opening, boutique owner Nicole Jennings opened a surprise gift from her husband, retired Vikings wide receiver and current Fox Sports analyst Greg Jennings.
He presented her with two framed and enlarged black-and-white photographs of Nicole posed with the great-grandmother who raised her in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The pictures of the two are now hanging in a prominent spot in the sleek retail space called Queen Anna, named for the late Anna Lee Whitten, Nicole Jennings’ beloved matriarch; she died last year at age 95.
“I want people to see the face behind the name. My grandmother is my inspiration and my example,” explains Jennings. “She was a go-getter and a community activist. She cared. She had a drive to help others and was still working in her last years. She had an enormous impact on so many people.”
Jennings is committed to following Whitten’s lead. As shoppers bought designer separates, shoes, jewelry and accessories at the opening day party, a portion of the brisk sales was dedicated to Tubman, the local family crisis and support center. In addition to her financial donation, Jennings has a volunteer relationship with the Twin Cities nonprofit, helping to prepare women clients for job interviews.
Jennings says that opening the high fashion boutique is the fulfillment a long term dream.
Located in a first floor storefront of the VELO apartment building, around the corner from the Red Cow restaurant, Jennings thinks her concept will connect with the style conscious women who live, work or dine in the trending neighborhood.
“I’m looking for designers that aren’t already here,” she said. “I describe the clothes here as lively, contemporary. They will appeal to women who appreciate good fabric on the body.”
Queen Anna is a brick-and-mortar companion to One Posh Closet, which Jennings started four years ago. The business combines online luxury consignment shopping with personal concierge consulting. Jennings tapped into her network of wives and girlfriends of professional athletes who contribute designer fashions to One Posh Closet; part of the proceeds of those sales go to their charity of choice.
“I’ve seen that knowing that they’re helping others makes people want to buy,” says Jennings, the mother of four children between the ages of four and ten. “It helps them feel great about their purchases.”