Melissa and Catie Grimm grow boutique from the ground up

In addition to running Carrots in San Francisco, sisters Melissa (left) and Catie Grimm write the blog Carrot Talk, where they mix their passions for fashion and food. Photography by Russell Yip / The Chronicle

As seen in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nerissa Pacio Itchon, Special to The Chronicle

One look at the Grimm sisters’ blog Carrot Talk, and it’s obvious that their love of food and fashion go hand in hand.

As scions of the Central Valley Grimmway baby carrots empire and co-owners of Jackson Square’s aptly named Carrots boutique, Melissa and Catie Grimm pepper posts about their latest designer discoveries with ebullient food musings – from restaurant raves to gourmet recipes they’ve tried at home.

Ask them about their favorite Jackson Square haunts, and they’ll answer enthusiastically: Melissa, 27, easily favors the Manhattans at Bix, while “pretty much everything on the menu at Cotogna,” agrees with Catie, 29.

“We cook together a lot, too,” says Catie, who conveniently lives in the same apartment building, several floors below, as Melissa in Cow Hollow. “One of our favorite things to do is go to the farmers’ market on Saturday, walk around the Ferry Building, buy stuff and then have a bunch of friends over Saturday night for a really big meal.”

But in between indulging their interests in cooking, entertaining, dining out and traveling (the Grimm clan vacationed in South Africa in December, Catie visited Marrakesh, Morocco, last summer with her husband, and Melissa’s wedding will take place at Lake Como, Italy, this month), this sibling duo is busy keeping their family’s entrepreneurial spirit alive with Carrots.
Growing pains

The back of Carrots boutique has a bar and area for shoppers -- or their mates -- to relax. Photography by Russell Yip / The Chronicle

Opened in 2007, the 4,000-square-foot womenswear boutique designed by William Wick and then-partner Gabriela Sarlo exudes the breathtaking glamour of New York or Paris shops. It’s conceived of as a concept store, says Melissa, where shoppers can find everything in one trip, from a cashmere sweater and fragrance to a blown-glass candleholder.

But since Carrots’ debut, which got some mixed reviews, the sisters have ridden a steep learning curve that has translated into a shift in their buying choices for a city that doesn’t necessarily live and breathe fashion.

“You open a store and it’s a certain point of view that’s not going to be for everyone,” says Melissa, recalling a particularly scathing New York Times piece in 2007 that she felt unfairly compared them to brother-and-sister team Ben and Chris Ospital of MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing).

“We understood that, but I don’t think the writer did. I don’t think that (the review) directly affected anything we do in the store, but since we’ve opened, things have changed continuously. You have to see first who’s coming through the door after you open to know who it is you’re buying for.”

In time, they discovered that their price points of T-shirts and slacks starting in the $200-to-$300 range drew a “sophisticated woman in her 40s, 50s or 60s,” says Catie. They used to stock emerging American designers such as Peter Som and Thakoon, they now skew toward established and European designers, such as Rick Owens, Maison Martin Margiela and Viktor & Rolf.

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