When we learned the owners behind the beautifully curated Tuscan shop Bon Boutique were a mother daughter duo we were instantly intrigued. How was working together day in and day out? How did the arrangement come to be? What we learned from Bonnie and Crystal Flint is that magic can be made from a little hard work, a lot of heart, and, most importantly, trust in each other and the process.
Read on for wisdom from this creative team, more about the behind-the-scenes of creating a shop from the ground up, and what they love most about their clients: "This inventiveness and independence of thought creates what we are truly interested in — personal style."
When did Bon open and what was the inspiration behind your shop?
My mom and I became partners 15 years ago and that is when the shop took on its current incarnation. My mom had a shop before we became partners for about 5 years — I would help her while I was in school and later working, and then we decided eventually that we wanted to do it together and incorporate our styles and interests. The inspiration was simply finding special things that we couldn't find in Tucson and putting them together in a way that was interesting to us.
Bon has a beautiful, dreamy, almost European-feeling point of view. How would you describe the aesthetic of your shop?
It's always hard for us to describe the aesthetic of our shop, but I think we described it best when we tried to sum it up for our website — we like a mix, new and old, rough and refined, dark and colorful, east and west, fun and serious... the beauty is in the way it’s all put together. I think a lot comes from our backgrounds: My mom grew up on a ranch her father ran in Solvang, California. She grew up completely in nature, so there is an inherent connection she has with animals, plants, and beauty! Her parents were first generation Portuguese and Dutch, so she grew up with European sensibilities. She has always loved renovating houses, etc. and decided to turn that love into making her first shop.
When I joined her, we combined my sartorial interests with what she was doing and we created something new together. I think a lot of inspiration for me comes from favorite childhood books like The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, and all the Beatrix Potter books.
You are a mother daughter duo: Did you always want to work together? How did your business relationship evolve and how do your strengths balance the other's weaknesses and vice versa?
We have always been very close and the thought of working together has sounded like a wonderful possibility since the thought first entered our minds. We are very lucky because we have an easy relationship and we get along very well. We work together on most aspects of our business, from working in the shop together, going on buying trips, ordering, planning, bouncing ideas back and forth, etc.
But, of course, there are a few things we do separately: I design our small collection of clothing and my mom does the bookwork. I am the one who does all our social media, website, etc. My mom hardly goes near a phone and never uses the internet. Which is absolutely wonderful! I love staying at her house where there are piles of great books and no wifi — it's a vacation every time. Other than those aspects, we do all else together. When one of us is very excited about something and the other is a bit hesitant, we both tend to lean toward the one who is hesitant. This is a rare thing, so I think we both trust when the other is unsure.
Who is your ideal customer? And what are your favorite pieces to share with them?
Our ideal client is one with curiosity and interest. We connect in so many different ways with our clients who often become friends. Whether it is someone who comes in for a special pencil and a notebook, or someone who's looking for pieces for her wardrobe, we try to create an atmosphere that is rich with quality and individual, beautiful pieces and is also attainable for a wide variety of people. We both dislike going into a shop where you can't find anything under $500.
We like the idea of discovery, that someone can come in and find beautiful hats handmade in Spain but also find a special scarf that is inexpensive, fun, and just as beautiful as a piece that might be more expensive. It's the way we all see things and the way we mix them together that interests us...a certain inventiveness that is in all of us, whether on the surface or not. This inventiveness and independence of thought creates what we are truly interested in — personal style. There is no formula. We love the originality that takes place in the fitting room with the different combinations of pieces our clients dream up. Whether it's the decision to try a dress on backwards or the idea of certain pieces together that we hadn't thought of ourselves. It is expression being created.
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The same goes with the items for the home in our shop — we love antique paintings mixed with new art or a paper decoration. We love seeing the way our clients mix the pieces they get from our shop into their own environment at home. The common thread throughout what we choose for our shop and like to share with our clients is a certain level of quality that is very important for us. This includes the element of the human hand in the making of the pieces we love and choose.
Tell us something we may find surprising about the Tucson community.
We were talking with a friend the other day who was saying that there are still a few empty lots in Tucson like there was in NY when he lived there years ago. He was kind of joking that as the empty lots get developed, he might look for a new place. It is happening and our city is changing, but what makes Tucson wonderful is that it is still affordable, which translates into a diverse population and also great small businesses.
One can take a risk on projects they are passionate about — they aren't weeded out as much by financial means as they are in some other cities. This gives us a city that feels individual and genuine. I think there is a feeling of freedom here — to be who you are, love what you love, do what you do on your own time. I think the backdrop of our environment plays a big part in this as well.
There is a certain level of calm, creativity, and peace of mind that comes with these vast expanses. You then have the incredible monsoons, cactus, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, etc. that keep it from being too tranquil. There is an element of intensity as well. I think all these things keep our community engaged, independent, and supportive.
Do you have a fashion icon or muse?
We love Martha Stewart, Diane Keaton, Elizabeth Hawes, Maria Callas, Alice Waters, Patience Gray, Mabel Dodge Luhan...there are really so many incredible women who we both admire. Perhaps they are more than style icons, as it is the influence they have had in our lives.
What do you think is currently missing from modern women's fashion?
A decent pair of jogging shoes. Partly kidding, but that is the only thing I look for and can't find, at least at the moment. A non-futuristic jogging shoe — I would love to find it. Aside from that, I think there are so many great designers out there doing beautiful work. We find more than we can carry in our shop.
What do you love most about what you do for a living?
Our shop is fully incorporated into our lives and we love every aspect of it. It is a true family affair as I sometimes bring my son to work, and we play my partner's music non stop in the shop — it is so fitting with our shop's environment. We love taking care of what we have and also having the ability to take it where we want to, running mostly on instinct.
Perhaps the feeling of possibility is the greatest feeling our shop gives us. We also feel so fortunate for friendships we have made over the years — with the designers we carry, our clients, our friends we do photo projects with (some of our friends who model with us have been coming into our shop with their parents since they were children), collaborators, fellow shopkeepers, and our dear friend Ginny who works with us at the shop... they all mean the world to us!