Napa Valley Register: Stylish Vallejo boutique Moves to Napa's Riverfront
FRIDAY NOV. 19, 2010 NAPA, CA - Helen Lyall relocated her women's fashion boutique from Vallejo to the Riverfront on Main Street. Jorgen Gulliksen/Register Jorgen Gulliksen. Article by Jennifer Huffman, Napa Valley Register
With her shock of white hair, wearing black leather pants, a black patent leather coat and dramatic, oversized jewelry, Helen Lyall bears a striking resemblance to the Meryl Streep character in the film “The Devil Wears Prada.” Lyall owns Helen Lyall Clothes for Women, a touted Vallejo boutique that recently opened in the Riverfront complex in downtown Napa.
In “The Devil Wears Prada,” Streep portrays a highly fashionable, overly demanding magazine editor. While Lyall may look like the film character, she certainly doesn’t act like her. “You’re treated like royalty when you come into Helen’s store,” longtime customer Sandee Pierce said. On a recent visit, nearly every visitor to Lyall’s boutique was greeted by name. Refreshments were offered and comfortable chairs provided. A small kitchenette area in the back was stocked with champagne glasses and dishware as if awaiting a party to begin. For 35 years, Lyall ran her successful women’s clothing store on Georgia Street in Vallejo. She developed a strong Napa Valley following by offering both fashion and impeccable customer service. The salon, as it is called, offers a wide array of merchandise hand-picked by Lyall, including sportswear, dresses, coats, accessories, evening wear, furs and even some boots and shoes. “We’re all about being unique,” Lyall said. The windows of the boutique give a glimpse of the glamour within. On a recent visit, an elegant black silk strapless evening gown trimmed in feathers stood next to a Michael Jackson-inspired military style jacket with glitter accents. Between the two pieces, a greyhound statue wore a fur wrap. Lyall describes her 2,700-square-foot store as a specialty boutique with merchandise from European and American designers priced in the middle to upper price ranges. “We’re not a mall store in price or look,” she said. Prices at the boutique run the gamut. A pair of equestrian-styled pants are $185, jackets start at $125, scarves start at $45, dresses from $100 and denim from $100. One highlight is a featherweight, reversible fox-trimmed raincoat for $650. One side featured fur strips, the other a waterproof raincoat. The coat is a best seller, Lyall said.
Lyall was encouraged to move to downtown Napa by Mike DeSimoni, a Napa resident whose family-owned company, Channel Properties, is behind the $72 million Riverfront project on Main Street. After being approached by DeSimoni, reportedly at the insistence of his wife, a Lyall customer, Lyall made the move. “We have a lot of customers from the valley,” Lyall said. They wanted her to be closer than the old Vallejo location, she said. Diners at Morimoto Napa and the other new Riverfront restaurants are the kind of people who will appreciate her clothing, Lyall said. “This is a very unique area.” Another longtime customer, Joan Lockhart of Napa, visited the new shop this past Wednesday. “You’re here,” Lockhart called out when she entered the salon. “I’m thrilled.” Lyall’s fashions “turn heads,” Lockhart said. “This is really glamorous,” Pierce said of the shop’s silver, black and white color scheme. “It’s kind of over the top.”
Lyall and her staff are well known for doing fashion shows for many fundraisers all over Napa County and the North Bay. The salon has supported the Napa Valley Symphony and Reach for the Stars. After running her business for 35 years, Lyall said she does not think of retiring. “I’m obsessed with business. I’m not ready to retire.” “I’m so glad I’m here,” Lyall said, “and I love my store.” Lyall’s is the first retail clothing store to open in Riverfront, but it won’t be the last. Her son, Scott Lyall, will open a men’s clothing store next door this spring, Lyall said.