Shopping and fashion got into Tay & Grace boutique owner Kristin Ruffino’s blood early, and for going on 17 years, she’s employed her expertise to help her Napa County customers find that perfect item in a welcoming and intimate atmosphere.
A Napa native, Ruffino, 55, said she got the buying bug from her mother and has evidently passed it to her daughter, Taylor Silleman.
The name of the store, which moved in August from Yountville to 1300 1st Street, Suite 315, in Napa, is a combination of Silleman’s first name and that of Ruffino’s grandmother, Grace, she said.
“My grandmother was the one who started Ruffino’s Restaurant – she was the entrepreneur of our family, I always say,” Ruffino said, adding that the building that housed the restaurant, by Oxbow Public Market, now contains Filippi’s Pizza Grotto Napa.
It was Ruffino’s mother who passed along her ability to recognize quality in fashion, she said.
“My taste in clothes probably comes from my mother,” she said. “She’d go once a month into San Francisco, to I. Magnin. Her favorite pastime was shopping, and she passed that down to me. And Taylor got it from me.”
You’ll get no argument on that score from Silleman, a 25-year-old architect.
“I guess I got all my mother’s best qualities,” she said.
Since 2004, Tay & Grace has been “dedicated to styling amazing women, locals and tourists alike,” Ruffino said in a statement.
“We share our passion for clothing with customers by carrying a beautifully curated selection of well-made and well-designed pieces that capture the best of the Napa Valley lifestyle,” she said.
“Guided by a commitment to bring quality clothing and goods, we hand pick items from both well-known and small designers and present them in a relaxed, intimate, and fun atmosphere, providing an exceptional shopping experience.”
Ruffino said her focus is on “the Napa Valley lifestyle,” in the form of “elevated basics — clothes for going out and going wine tasting.”
“Nothing too fancy or over the top,” Silleman said.
Not that mother and daughter instantly agree on every merchandise selection, they said.
“We don’t always agree,” Ruffino said. “Taylor has a little bit younger taste, so sometimes we have to compromise.” Tay & Grace shoppers can find items for a wide range of ages – from about 30 to 60s, the women said.
“In winter we focus on cashmere sweaters and denim, and in summer, it’s dresses and pantsuits,” Ruffino added. “Everything is very wearable, not meant to sit in the closet, and this is what I’ve heard from people over the years. Everything is well made, and it is all selected by us.”
Those cashmere items are among the shop’s priciest, at up to $400, but there are also items at the other end of the pricing spectrum – face masks, specifically, that go for $30, the ladies said.
The masks, of course, are a concession to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not the only one.
“We closed down and moved out of Yountville because of it,” Ruffino said. “We never have too many people in here at one time. People wear masks, we have sanitizer, and we steam clean everything.”
Silleman said she basically grew up in the store and came naturally by her fondness for fashion.
“I’ve been wearing clothes from the store since it opened, when I was like 9 years old,” she said. “I’ve been going to the fashion mart with my mom since I’m 10 years old. I’ve always looked at fashion magazines and I liked to dress up when I was younger and go to the market.”
“She definitely grew up in the fashion world,” Ruffino said. “Now, she’s an architect, and so she’s still designing and focusing on details. And, she still helps with the store.”
Before opening the store in Yountville, Ruffino said she spent years in marketing – mostly in the wine and hotel industries.
Considering her background, it makes perfect sense that Ruffino would say shopping is one of the things she likes best about owning and operating Tay & Grace, but it’s not the only thing.
“I like ordering the clothes, picking them, putting them in the store,” she said. “But, also, the people you meet. Over 17 years, there are so many relationships you establish. Styling people, is the fun part. Helping them put outfits together. People come in with very specific tastes sometimes, and I have a pretty good eye for what will look good on people. We have people who come in for one item at a time and then others who come in for 10 outfits at a time. Those are the power shoppers.”
But, there are challenges, as well, she said.
“Making so many decisions every day is sort of tiring,” Ruffino said.
Mother and daughter say that they strive to make Tay & Grace a notch above most other boutiques.
“My mom does a really good job of curating pieces,” Silleman said. “She really can curate outfits and figure out what pieces go together. Also, she sets a pleasant atmosphere. And people really like coming in. It’s a very welcoming space. We are always looking for the right thing for you to take home.”
Ruffino said she agrees, adding that new customers are just friends they haven’t met yet.
“I feel like it’s intimate. Even if we don’t know you, we act like we do. Many people find it easier to shop in a less pretentious place,” she said.
Catering to locals as well as tourists, Ruffino said the transfer to Napa was a good idea at the right time.
“I’m really happy,” she said. “I’m in my community again. It’s where I grew up. It’s an amazing feeling being in business where I grew up.”
Tay & Grace, Suite 315 in the First Street Napa complex, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Phone: 707-637-4500; Website: tayandgrace.com; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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You can reach business editor Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or email@example.com