Priya Hutner
Special to the Sun

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August 5, 2014
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Meet Your Merchant: Tahoe girl keeps it Fine ‘N Funky

Seated by Lake Tahoe on the promenade of the Boatworks Mall, Lisa Arnbrister is relaxed, positive and full of passion as she talks about her store and her family’s history.

“My mother was way beyond her years when it came to fashion. She was earthy and bohemian in every sense of the words,” Arnbrister said during a chat on a sunny afternoon outside the mall’s Fine ‘N Funky clothing shop. “She had an eclectic style. Think ‘Gucci Hippy.’”

Arnbrister owns Fine ‘N Funky, and the retail shop boasts a dazzling array of dressy and casual clothes — many with bright prints and patterns that captivate the eyes.

Flowing dresses of every length hang with care from the racks — long dresses, short dresses and mini dresses. Meanwhile, the men’s section in the front of the store boasts the latest fashion trends.

The back of Fine ‘N Funky hosts more casual apparel. One wall is devoted to top name brand jeans, enough to keep a customer busy for hours.

Arnbrister moved to Tahoe from the Bay Area when she was in seventh grade. In 1978 her parents Neta and Ken Arnbrister opened Fine ‘N Funky in The Cobblestone Center, before moving it to Boatworks in 1997. They also opened a sister store in Reno in 1988.

“I had doubts in myself in the beginning, and then I totally embraced it,” said Lisa, who took over the business in 2006, shortly after her father died.

‘ATTENTION TO DETAIL’

Glittery jewelry and fun, funky treasures surround the island in the middle of the store, where Lisa and her manager, Jackie Ciansi, end up juggling the phones and tending to customers.

Ciansi is the manager of the smaller Reno store and works in the Tahoe City location a few days a week. She also is the denim buyer for both locations.

“I love working for Lisa. Her attention to detail is impeccable,” Ciansi said. “I’ve learned so much from her. When I walk into either of our locations and see something out of place, it’s glaring.

“We are family. It’s fun to work here without any corporate energy.”

Lisa’s daughter, Sylvana, 21, also works for the business and wants to carry on the family legacy.

“She’s been a retailer since birth,” her mom said with a laugh.

Lisa’s life as an entrepreneur started years before taking over the family business. In 1996, she started her own scented nail polish and cosmetic line called “Tuff Scent.”

“I was inspired by my young daughter who was painting her fingernails with scented markers,” she said.

The line has been sold at hundreds of stores across the world, and over the years it’s been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America and Fox News, as well as in publications such as In Style, Vogue, W and Cosmopolitan, among others.

‘LIFE INSPIRES ME’

As the boats in the nearby Tahoe City Marina bob up and down, Travis Ganong, Squaw Valley’s Olympic alpine ski racer, passes by and stops to say hello to Lisa.

The two have known each other for years. Ganong is wearing Flash Tattoos on his forearm.

“We carry those in our store,” she said as the duo discusses his body art.

Other folks amble by, greeting Lisa as she basks in the sun.

“The crowning glory for me is seeing the people who return to us,” she said. “Tourists stop in and tell me that we are their first stop when they arrive into town. And without our regulars, Fine ‘N Funky wouldn’t exist.”

Outside the store, Fine ‘N Funky keeps a vigilant social media presence with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to help drive online sales. Lisa remains hands-on with photo shoots of the shop’s latest clothing line and oversees the company’s web content.

She pays attention to fashion trends and people who keep moving the industry forward. Following innovators keeps her business fresh and ever-changing.

“There are many of us whose quest is to climb the highest mountain, ski the steepest run, aspire to find the most epic, steep and deep pow — well, that aspiration, that quest carries over into my life and my business,” she said. “Life inspires me. I love people and I love Tahoe. ”

Priya Hutner is a freelance writer and can be reached at pria78@gmail.com.

“We are family. It’s fun to work here without any corporate energy.”
Jackie Ciansi
Manager, Fine ‘N Funky


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 5, 2014 04:38PM Published Aug 5, 2014 09:56AM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.