When you talk to Marguerite Tram, the owner of Purple Lizard Boutique, three words come to mind: warm, welcoming and spirited. And those qualities are reflected in her business as well.
Purple Lizard is a Phoenix brick-and-mortar store located at the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and Thomas Road in the Encanto Village Shopping Center. The store opened Sept. 4, 1998 — a day that had special meaning to the owner. It was her dad’s birthday.
That family connection is important to her. She grew up on the East Coast in a family of Italian tailors and entrepreneurs. Her mother taught her to sew when she was around the age of 5 and she began creating and sewing her own doll clothes, then later, designing and making all of her own clothing, which is where her artistic eye for fashion began to develop.
Among other enterprises, her entrepreneurial parents ran an appliance store in New Jersey and a shoe business, and she recalls going into the city on stocking trips.
Back then, “Business was done in a very different way. A lot of honor system, a lot of handshaking and a lot of trust and coming to know you as a businessperson. I was raised with that, and I saw their mannerisms and how well they dealt with people. They were truly loved by the people in our small town, and I grew up knowing that was one of the things to take with me in my heart through my life.”
The family moved to Arizona in the 70s and she continues in that entrepreneurial spirit today.
“Both my parents are gone now, but I carry that; we carry it forever and I cherish it.”
As Purple Lizard readies to reach a milestone quarter century in 2023, its owner is reflective.
“I can’t believe I have 24 years behind me. You know, life has a way of being just like that. I could remember moments when I thought, ‘How will I get through this fire?’ And you do. And then the next and the next. And then I realized how powerful that was to get through that.”
The boutique was founded based on inclusion — a safe place where there would be something for everyone, including clothing that is sustainable and comfortable for ever-changing lives, as well as unique handmade items and found treasures.
As customers’ tastes changed, the boutique has evolved over the years and today includes a broad variety of art and gift items, vintage Mexican santos, textiles and ceramics, along with the clothing and accessories. An emphasis is on natural fibers such as cotton and easy-care linen from small artisans around the world.
“I have a lot of wonderful designers in here now. I have not only domestic, but I have Australia, France, Italy, Sweden, Lithuania.”
In 2020, as with most businesses during the height of the pandemic, the boutique owner faced yet another trial and was forced to close her doors to customers.
“COVID changed everything for a lot of people, not only business owners but artists,” the entrepreneur said. “We all came full stop. I was able to do some thinking.”
As the pandemic spread, she followed the news about the tragedy unfolding and paid keen attention to how other business owners were handling the fallout and adjusting their business models. She found inspiration in the midst of it and a way to get through that fire.
“I thank God that some of those things we heard about didn’t happen to me and my family, but I see so much beauty that has come from it. My doors are not open to the public at this time, but with my appointments it has given me this magnificent time to be with my customers one-on-one.”
The boutique is back open by appointment only, which not only gives customers a personalized shopping experience, but allows the busy business owner to more spend time with her family, and slow down a bit and enjoy each moment — and perhaps, pass on some of her gained wisdom to up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
“Just enjoy every moment and be as grateful as you possibly can at that moment, even if you’re struggling. Just be your best and try and get through it. Ask for help and don’t feel in any way less than to ask for help.
“And be open. You don’t have to do what everybody says. I have made decisions that work for me. And it brought me to this place now.”
Purple Lizard Boutique is located at 2827 N. 15th Ave. in Phoenix. For more information or to make a shopping appointment, call 602-728-0980 email firstname.lastname@example.org. Customers also can shop the boutique online at www.purplelizardboutique.com.