During the last ten and a half years, Francesca's Clothing Boutique has established itself as the leading women's clothing boutique in Taos County Both of Francesca's stores are cozy venues that carry feel-good apparel.

Approximately half of the inventory is Hard Tail activewear, proudly made in the USA. Mostly cotton, with a touch of spandex, the favorites are yoga pants, fleece jackets, and skinny T's, which are all designed to stretch as you move and flatter your figure.

Garments from India, Nepal and Thailand comprise the other half of the inventory. Silk skirts and tops made from saris, wrap-around pants and other unique items attract the customers that want to be different. The best seller, Mudmee tye-dyes, hand dyed in Thailand, completes the picture.

The story of Francesca's Clothing Boutique begins with its owner, Francesca Medina, who was raised in Great Neck, Long Island and brought up in the women's clothing business. Her mother was a famous New York clothier and her father was a women's sportswear wholesaler.

Francesca attended Manhattan's prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, one of the largest fashion schools in the world and a breeding ground for upcoming New York designers and entrepreneurs. Following graduation, Francesca managed a boutique on Madison Avenue for several years. She eventually moved back to Long Island to start a family for the next twenty years, and open her own gem and mineral businesses that she ran until a stranger offered to buy one of her stores in 2000.

Francesca had been visiting New Mexico for twenty years, buying Native American arts in Santa Fe, Taos, Gallup and Shiprock. After selling her New York store, she set out on an extended vacation to see her daughter, Liz, who was living in Arroyo Seco and her grandson, Judah, who was born in Taos.

Soon after her mother's arrival in New Mexico, Liz suggested that Francesca rent an empty building in Arroyo Seco once known as the Post Office and open a new store. Leaving her other daughter Melissa, who was a college student learning massage therapy, and her granddaughter Maya in New York, Francesca moved to Arroyo Seco. Now Melissa and Maya live here too.

By November 2000, Francesca was back in business in a completely new setting.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," she said in her characteristically animated style. "My father always said, 'You gotta get the big idea, the whole purpose of what you're doing.' I realized that I should return to my roots and go back into clothing. The local women here needed reasonably priced clothing and fashionably fun designs. All this time I was thinking about my mother and her successful business and what she would do. My big idea was to offer imported and unusual women's clothing, with most items priced between $25 and $50, in a cute boutique with a down-home atmosphere."

So Francesca returned to her old stomping grounds, New York City's famed Garment District to be inspired.

"I had the big idea but I didn't know if it would work out or not," Francesca remembered. "I opened with a small stock of imported clothing and I had a huge response. I was working seven days a week to figure out the rhythm of things. All the while, my mother was watching me from a photo on the shelf."

Francesca's second store opened in Taos eight and a half years ago, and moved to El Prado three and a half years ago. Its front porch displays a sampling of gaily colored merchandise, similar to the original Arroyo Seco shop.

"I have an adorable staff of girls who are very helpful and dedicated to providing good customer service," said Francesca.

Daughter Melissa works for Francesca's and Liz is the bookkeeper. Her grandaughter Maya inspired the children's section.

"Come in to either store and see for yourself. As far as cuteness our clothing is over the top. We have something for every woman," Francesca says.

Both stores are open seven days a week, and this week on Monday is the Arroyo Seco July 4 parade at noon.

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