She smiles with the sort of confidence that’s genuine, yet withholding. Her eyes light up as she recalls the recent opening of her boutique.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “I don’t think, until that moment, people understood the magnitude of my ambitions. Fashion is something that I have always found value in.”
Naseem Momtazi’s new store, Robert Roe, is the most recent addition to the popular Third Street business community in downtown McMinnville.
She was a junior at Linfield College when she began thinking about opening her own clothing outlet. But she said, “I knew that if I wanted to get my dream going, I had to work at something else first.”
After graduating with a business degree in 2009, Momtazi began working for her parents’ well-known family winery, Maysara, as a sales and marketing specialist.
She said working for the winery has been a great experience. Not only has it helped her grow as a businesswoman, but it has also introduced her to many different cultures, experiences which have worked together to inspire her fashion sense.
Momtazi has traveled through most of the U.S. now, and has become familiar with the countries of Dubai and Sweden.
“You know, when I go to these places, I see many things,” she said. “I love seeing the different styles of cities and countries.”
She hopes to bring some of those styles to Robert Roe. The outlet carries products from brands like QI Cashmere, Naven, House of Harlow, Belle Noel, Lovers + Friends and Threads 4 Thoughts, to name a few.
It’s at the higher end of the price spectrum, but Momtazi hopes people will realize quality is a great investment. Her things may be a bit more expensive, but in exchange, they will last longer.
Prices for tops range from $13 for a T-shirt to about $170 for a blouse or cashmere sweater. Jeans run from $120 to about $210.
“I still have cashmere from high school,” she said. “It’s worth the investment.
“To me, it’s important for people to feel classy, to feel great about themselves, and I think clothes provide that quality.”
Inspired by the class she hoped to bring to the boutique, and wanting to avoid trading on the family name, she chose to name her business Robert Roe.
“I knew from the beginning that whatever name I picked it had to be different from our name,” she said. “I wanted something strong. Robert is so strong.”
Momtazi said her family is extremely close, so it was a bit of a challenge early on to get her parents to understand why venturing out on her own was important to her.
Her youngest sister, Hanna, said, “Our parents were a bit reserved to the idea because they didn’t want my sister to lose focus of the winery.”
Though they have since embraced the idea, she said, they are not stepping in. They are giving Naseem the room to test her wings on her own, unaided.
Hanna said their parents invested a lot of hard labor getting where they are today, and they want Naseem to understand what it takes. She said some people might view it as a lack of support, but it’s actually the kind of support designed to teach her the most important lesson of all—the value of hard work.
On the flip side, Naseem said, some people assume her family is underwriting her endeavor, when it isn’t.
“What’s been a little bit annoying is that a lot of people think this is something I’ve done with my family, but it’s been all on my back,” she said.
“That’s been really hard, to live in the shadow of everyone thinking it’s a family business when it’s not; it’s all mine.”
Momtazi sees Robert Roe expanding some day to cities like New York and Los Angeles. She admires the fashion tastes of Rachel Zoe and Kourtney Kardashian and seeks to emulate them in her shop on a grand scale.
But it all starts with McMinnville. She said it’s a fact of life that clothing options are limited locally.
“I just want people to not stick themselves in a bubble,” she said. “It’s funny how many get into this mentality of, ‘This is how I must dress.’ I want them to see possibilities and feel good.”
She said the biggest limitations she’s facing right now are the location and hours.
Robert Roe is tucked into Studio 10, on the second floor, above La Bella Casa. And she noted, “I’m only open two days a week, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment. It’s what I can manage right now.”
Momtazi said one of her goals is to inspire other Linfield graduates, and current students, to create their own businesses as well.
“I want Linfield students to know that they can ask for internships so they can get a clear hands-on experience,” she said.
She’s also honoring her Linfield ties by offering students a 10 percent discount on clothing and accessories. Momtazi said the boutique isn’t fully where she wants it to be yet, but she isn’t easily discouraged.
“This is my baby,” she said. “There’s no way it’s not going to succeed. It’s going to happen.
“Opening this store is just the first step for me. People have no idea the things I’m creating in my mind.”
Blanca Esquivel can be reached at email@example.com