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Palette Boutique owner Tonya Milteer at her store at 34 Sunnyside Avenue in Mill Valley.

More than 17 years ago, one of Tonya Milteer’s closest friends convinced her to quit her promising media job at Young & Rubicam in Manhattan and move to San Francisco with her, a (hopelessly less eventful) Thelma & Louise-style adventure and a chance to sink their teeth into a Bay Area in the midst of its first major tech boom.

Just a few days before their departure, with Milteer having quit her job, broken her lease and readied herself for the move of a lifetime, her friend chickened out.

Milteer persevered.

“I had no job, no friends and no contacts here,” Milteer says now with a laugh. “I had to try and figure out a way to make it work – I gave myself a year. A year turned into 17 years…”

For 15 of those years, Milteer owned Her, one of San Francisco’s best boutique clothing shops. The shop, located on bustling Fillmore Street next to the venerable Elite Cafe, became a staple in lower Pacific Heights, outlasting dozens of nearby stores and riding several economic ebbs and flows in the process.

Now Milteer is in her second act in the fashion world, helming one of Mill Valley’s newest clothing shops, Palette Boutique at 34 Sunnyside Avenue. The store has a companion shop at 8 Tamalpais Drive in Corte Madera, which opened in July 2015, and Milteer says she’s thrilled to bring her aesthetic to Marin.

“I’ve just always loved the intellectual, cultural vibe here in Mill Valley,” says Milteer, a writer and lit lover who regularly attends author readings by the likes of Anne Lamott at the Depot Bookstore. “And I’m a huge foodie, and this town has the best restaurants in Marin.”

Palette curates the latest styles from both established and emerging designers, including Baggu, BB Dakota, 525 America, Goldsign Denim, Level 99 Denim, Splendid, Subtle Luxury Cashmere, Surburban Riot and Veronica M.

Milteer says she persistently tracks one-trend and fashion forward styles.

“The result is a beautiful dream closet for Marin women: a great mix of premium denim, standout pieces, chic basics and lifestyle lines, along with gorgeous bags and accessories,” Milteer says.

Born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey, Milteer chuckles when she thinks about that harrowing first year in San Francisco. Though she initially stayed in the media business and got her first San Francisco job at marketing giant J. Walter Thompson, she realized that while she loved the lifestyle and the dynamic, accomplished people she met within it, the work itself didn’t excite her. Fashion, and boutique retail in particular, did.

She said as much to a friend over dinner one night, and he told her that if she was serious about a move into apparel and could produce a solid business plan, he would consider investing. Soon after, as she rode the 1-California Express bus downtown to work, she saw a jewelry store owner posting a “For Rent” sign outside, and she leapt at the chance, convincing the Muni driver to halt an express bus and then spending much of the rest of the day lobbying the jeweler to put in a good word for her with the property owner.

Fast forward and Milteer, a mother of two boys, is loving her two stores in Marin.

“The support has been great here so far,” Milteer says. “My impression of Mill Valley women is that once they find your store, like what they see in terms of the brands and designs and realize that you are a small, independent store – they are super interested in supporting a small business. That intention is palpable, and that has been really heartwarming.”

The 411: Palette Boutique is at 34 Sunnyside Avenue. More info. Palette is featuring the art of longtime Mill Valley photographer Barry Toranto.


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