Le Point's Pauline Montupet Is an Ultra Stylish Jill of All Trades
Welcome to Shop Talk, a new series featuring the people bringing you San Francisco's coolest stores.
Pauline Montupet's Mission boutique, Le Point, is getting all the love these day. Just two short years after opening at the corner of 14th and Valencia, Le Point won the Best Designer Boutique category in San Francisco magazine's Best of SF awards, and Mini magazine recently profiled Pauline and her adorable toddle, Ollie.
Montupet, a wardrobe stylist-turned-shopkeeper, has been a fixture on the local design scene for years between her print work and her 2x3 label, and Le Point. At her store, she's a Jill of all trades, handling everything from shopgirl duties to packing online orders, managing the accounting, and buying inventory. "Honestly, it’s a bit frantic, but we make it work," she says. "I find it's one of the nice things about running a shop: no two days are alike."
She may be a newer addition to the retail scene, but Montupet says that fellow female business owners have been supportive and welcoming. "It’s such a strong, inspiring community! We have a group on Facebook that has been a total lifesaver. It proves no matter what you sell and where you sell it, we all deal with the same struggles and are all working towards the same goal."
Read on to learn more about Pauline's inspiration for the store, how she manages her days, and where she shops when she's not in her store.
Rockyt: How would you describe your shop?
Pauline: Le Point is all about mixing trendier, more fashion-forward pieces with items that are more casual and easy to wear. I would call our style maximalist-minimalism. We love a good trendy statement piece, but only when paired back to a minimalist basic.
Rockyt: Why did you decide to open a store?
Pauline: I had been working as a wardrobe stylist for print for about nine years and had always wanted to open a shop. My favorite part about styling was creating a story with the clothing; the shop is really an extension of that. Every season, I get to create a new story and narrative with beautiful clothing, accessories, and home items. When people come into the shop and think it’s all one collection, I feel like I have been successful. I have brought together 20 brands from all over the world and made it seem like one clear vision.
Rockyt: What’s the best thing about owning your own shop?
Pauline: I think clothing can be really transformative. It’s so great and rewarding to see someone light up and feel good and confident when they try something on. I really enjoy seeing people love the items that we carry. I hope that after they take them home that they continue to bring them joy for some time.
Rockyt: What’s the hardest part of doing business in San Francisco?
Pauline: Since we sell mostly clothing, the hardest part is the weather. As we all know, our seasons are relatively mild all year round. I have to make sure I buy to suit our climate. When I go on buying appointments, the key runway look from a designer might be a super strappy dress for summer or a giant parka for fall. Well, that’s not the best fit for us. So it’s finding pieces in the collections that suit the SF weather and the SF customer.
Rockyt: Tell me about your day.
Pauline: My son, Ollie, is usually my alarm clock; he usually gets up between 6:45 and 7:15. Sometimes I will get up before him do a bit of work. I find I can be more productive for and hour or two early in the morning (when the house is quiet), versus trying to stay up late working. I hate to admit it, but I am addicted to my iPhone. It’s usually the first thing I check while laying in bed. I will check my personal and shop email and then I will peruse Instagram. Then it’s breakfast and lots of coffee with Ollie. Three days a week, I drop him off at school and head off to work.
I usually get in around 9 or so and work a bit before we open at 11. I work at the shop three to four days a week. Working retail has some tricky hours, so sometimes I’ll work on weekends and holidays. I am on the floor a couple of days of week, then the other days I’m upstairs in the office. (Other than myself, we have an assistant manager and two part-time sales girls.) If I am picking my son up, I leave at 5; other days I will stay and close up the shop at 7. [Then it's] dinner and playtime at home.
After [Ollie's] bedtime, I’ll relax, watch some TV, have a glass of wine, and sometimes catch up on work emails or post new products to our online shop. Two weekdays a week I work from home to be with my son, so I always have my phone on me—and take advantage of that fact that my son is a power napper and takes three-hour naps. He is a trooper and accompanies me on errands and to the shop if I need to get a couple of things done.
Rockyt: Social media seems to be a big part of small business these days. How much time do you dedicate to social channels?
Pauline: Probably not enough, to be honest. We focus most of our energy on Instagram. Between my assistant manager and I, we spend about one to two hours on there a day doing stories, posting, and then engaging customers and responding to questions. Lately I feel that Instagram is becoming less effective, so we are turning our focus on some of our other platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. I think social media can only take you so far, so we are also focusing internally on making our site the best it can be. We plan on adding a blog component and a more in-depth newsletter where we can spotlight some of the designers we carry, our staff picks, etc.
Rockyt: Where do you hang out on your days off?
Pauline: The downfall of running your own business is that there are very few true days off. Mostly when I’m not working, I will spend time with my family in Bernal Heights. My son is almost two, so [there are] lots of playdates, playground time. and swim classes. Sometimes days off are spent at the shop, too—just popping in for a bit to do a couple of things.
Rockyt: What’s one thing customers can find at your shop that they are unlikely to find anywhere else in San Francisco?
Pauline: We carry a lot of smaller European brands that are harder to find in SF. Brands like Totême, Maria Black, Ganni and L’Homme Rouge. Then, for some of our bigger, more known brands like Tibi and Opening Ceremony: we carry a different, more-edited selection than some of the bigger stores.
Rockyt: There are lots of thought pieces right now about how shoppers are craving unique experiences. What makes your store experience unique?
Pauline: I think that is very true. People are starting to be more conscious about where they spend their money. Being a smaller store, we can offer a more curated and interesting brand selection than, say, a larger chain like Barney's. We have brands that people are familiar with, but also lots of brands that are newer. We are able to educate people and give them more information about the designers and the brands we carry. I think that’s something people really crave right now. They want to know about the designers and even about us as shop before they purchase.
Le Point, located at 301 Valencia Street in the Mission, is open from 11 am to 7 pm daily. To shop online, visit shoplepoint.com. If you see something that strikes your fancy on the store's Instagram, message the store online or call 415-400-4275. Check out Pauline's styling work at paulinemontupet.com.