While Napa has the outlets, chain stores like Target and Marshalls and then a handful of downtown boutiques for local women to shop at, those living Upvalley have fewer options for affordable fashion.
But Napa Valley’s first fashion truck is looking to change that, providing unique clothing that’s both convenient and accessible for mainly the women of St. Helena, Calistoga, Deer Park and Angwin.
Deer Park resident Carrie Gehrke owns the teal boutique on wheels called Libby Simone.
The truck, which even has a small fitting room, carries both regular and plus sized clothing, ranging from XS to 3X, in addition to jewelry and accessories. She’s currently carrying a holiday section, and has “wish list” cards, which women can fill out and bring home to their significant others.
The best part: everything is less than $100.
“I read an article almost a year ago about these two women in Los Angeles who opened up the first fashion truck six years ago,” said Gehrke.
“It just started snowballing, there’s like three to four hundred of them across the country now, and I said, ‘I think that’s what I want to do, I’ve got to go for it. I’m 41-years-old. I’ve got to go for it.’”
So, she bought the 1984 GMC truck off of Craigslist and then she and her husband made it over in a matter of three months.
Gehrke purchases her inventory at trade shows, which she attends a couple times a year. In February, for instance, she was buying styles for fall. Her official launch was in the first week of May.
Gehrke named her truck after her daughter.
“I tried for so long to think of a perfect name, and I finally realized that I spent so long picking her name, that it was just perfect,” she said.
“And if it was good enough for my daughter, it’s good enough for my business.”
Plus, the name even fits the clothes.
“Libby is kind of a sweet, cute name, and Simone has a little more of a va-va-voom, and that’s what I try to bring. I try to bring simple, classic, wearable styles, but with that punch; something a little bit different, like fun colors and fun patterns, so that everything is wearable, but also unique,” she said.
Born and raised Upvalley, Gehrke even ended up marrying the boy from across the street. The fashion truck was an opportunity to offer her neighbors something that was missing in her home town her entire life.
“I created this mainly for locals, and I wanted people to have an option. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve always said, ‘Why don’t we have something in St. Helena? Why do I have to go to Napa?’ I love Napa, but it’s not always convenient, especially now that I’m a mom,” she said.
“I know that other moms and other people feel that way too, so it’s the convenience factor and keeping it affordable, and bringing something to the valley that is not here otherwise.”
Gehrke has a degree in Fashion Merchandising from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and ran her own style consulting business in Napa Valley until she had her twins, a boy and a girl now 6 years old.
Her background gives her business an extra edge and the opportunity to once again flex her styling muscles, she said.
“I look at all my clothes from a stylist eye and I try to choose the clothes that are going to fit best on the majority of people’s bodies,” she said.
“With this, I can give advice, help people who want it, but then I can offer the clothes right here.”
The plus-size section was very important for Gehrke, as she loves styling for the average woman.
“I’ve always wanted to do this for the average woman who hates shopping, or just doesn’t know what to wear to make themselves feel beautiful. It’s exciting, the stylists who work in L.A. and New York, and I like watching those shows and things like that, but I’ve never really wanted to do that,” she said.
The truck was at some of the local Farmers Markets that have since closed for the season, so for now, it can be found twice a month at the College Market in Angwin and in the parking lot of Lolo’s Consignment on Main Street in St. Helena.
Gehrke keeps an updated schedule on her website, which has an online store with free local delivery and pickup, and offers private appointments for those who can’t make it out.
Libby Simone is also available for free, no-obligation private parties. The hostess receives a 30 percent discount on any purchases she makes.
“I’m not the party,” Gehrke said. “I just come to your party and you get to shop, and then I leave, and then you carry on with your party and your friends.”
She also works part time at the St. Helena Hospital, but she hopes to eventually turn her truck into a full-time gig.
One of the ways she believes she can do that is by partnering with other local businesses, like wineries, salons and spas, to put on “Sip and Shop” events or ladies nights. She’ll be doing an upcoming event with Clif Family Winery, who is already mobile-friendly with their Bruschetteria Food Truck.
“I think it would be a really great opportunity for both businesses coming together and collaborating,” she said.