The Village Shop in Whitefish is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Tami Yunck has owned the clothing store since 2006, and she said the shop has “made a lot of changes” in the past half-century.
What started as a ski apparel store on Big Mountain in 1969 has transitioned into a trendy downtown boutique, and the space that once housed a historic movie theater now showcases clothes instead of films. Yunck believes flexibility and attention to the customer have helped the store withstand changes in the industry and the area for so many years.
“I always continue learning,” said Yunck, who has worked there full time for 20 years, or nearly half of the shop’s lifespan.
The original owner, Nina Hinderman, moved the ski outfitter business to downtown Whitefish after a few years on Big Mountain and transitioned into fashion with the proliferation of ski-oriented stores in the 1970s.
In 1978, Nancy Svennungsen purchased the store and then moved it into the location of the former Orpheum Theater in 1981, where it still resides today. The historic building had already been remodeled from its former glory as a movie theater, but remnants of the storied playhouse are visible today.
The theater operated from 1916 to the 1960s, and the original colorful painting still decorates The Village Shop’s walls. Shoppers may notice the angled ceiling of the former balcony as they browse jewelry displays, and a classic projector greets patrons who come in the Second Street entrance.
As the space has evolved, so, too, has the fashion. At different points over the years, the shop has added and removed brands, expanded accessories such as shoes and jewelry, and switched up sections like consignment and men’s clothing. “It’s ever-changing,” according to Yunck.
As recently as spring 2019, the store underwent renovations and rebranding.
“You don’t really think about waste in fashion,” Yunck pointed out, as she has recently focused on reducing waste through consignment and sourcing brands that use recycled fabrics.
The shop also incorporated Steeps Tea in 2018 to “add something for people who are shopping in a group but aren’t into fashion,” said Yunck. The wide tea selection is part of her emphasis on the shopping experience, which she believes is central to the store’s long tenure.
“With the internet, you could get anything you want [online],” Yunck said candidly. “There has to be some reason to get up off the couch. Shopping with friends and family is tied up in the memories. What you pick out reminds you of the experience with friends.”
With this in mind, Yunck hand-picks many items from local vendors and suppliers throughout the West, particularly in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle. She looks for “unique brands that you can’t find online,” relying on input from her customers and years of experience to inform her selections. It helps that she started buying clothing at age 14 for a store her grandmother owned, but she insisted “the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
As such, Yunck admitted she can’t quite pinpoint the secret to The Village Shop’s longevity. She believes the store has a niche in selling “great brands and style in a mountain town,” which often comes as a surprise to shoppers. She also credited the “huge support system” from locals and second-home owners in Whitefish.
To keep The Village Shop’s tradition alive, Yunck said she plans to “continue collecting thoughts and feelings from customers and see where they want to go next.”
The Village Shop is located at 201 Central Ave. in Whitefish, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4459.