Jenny Luna
Special to the Sun

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October 17, 2013
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Meet Your Merchant: Local store finds a new ‘Niche’

TRUCKEE, Calif. — In 2002, Jamie Kuckenmeister first opened The Niche. Pronounced, it rhymes with “hitch,” although co-owner Danny Manguso said some customers get creative with their own versions.

“People think it’s French,” he said. “I think people think it sounds more fashionable that way.”

When Jamie opened her first store in Reno, there wasn’t time spent on creating a name.

“I’ve had plenty of time to think about and come up with a name that I thought was catchy, fun and easy to remember,” she said.

Jamie said in her 30 years of experience, she thoroughly learned the business until she felt confident to open her own store.

“I must’ve planned and talked about opening my own store for 10 years before I had the resources and courage to actually follow through,” she said.

Jamie opened the original location in Reno in 2002 and has grown her business to include an online store and locations in Reno, Carson City and Truckee.

FINDING A NEW NICHE

This July, The Niche moved from its location in downtown Truckee to the Gateway Shopping Center. Danny said the storefront near Starbucks “has better exposure and is more convenient for locals.”

The new store receives more foot traffic and has easily accessible parking.

“It’s convenient here for people to just pull up and come inside,” Danny said. “We’re meeting a lot of locals who never made it over to the other location.”

The shopping center is a space better suited for The Niche. The Brickelltown location measured more than 2,500 square feet, and the new location is 1,700.

The new shop’s interior is bright and airy, and with all the merchandise, appears more full.

FROM CUBICLE TO STORE FRONT

Before finding his own niche, Danny worked as an engineer, spending days at the office working on subdivision design and civil improvements.

After a decade, the outdoor enthusiast said he “got tired of sitting in a cubicle.”

He joined The Niche to help run the marketing and financial side of the business. Danny works the numbers while Jamie sticks to the fashion, the design — and The Niche’s creative side, he said.

“There’s so much that goes into it. I really enjoy just watching it grow,” Danny said.

Danny calls his career move a “big jump,” albeit the right one for him. Friends and acquaintances may not understand his decision, Danny said, but it doesn’t matter because he is good at what he is doing, and enjoying his new path.

“Most people don’t get it,” Danny said. “But it doesn’t change my opinion — it’s a lot of fun. I’m pretty set where I’m at now. It doesn’t feel as much like work.”

Danny is able to work from home, which means less time in the cubicle and more time on his bike.

Danny is also in charge of the store’s website and social media marketing, something he said he has “figured out just by doing.”

He dresses fashionably but says clothes and home décor are not his specialty at all; he is more behind the scenes. Danny said he and Jamie make a great team with the combination of their different personalities.

“She’s the talent and I’m more the numbers person,” Danny said. “Coming from an analytical perspective helps, and she brings the creativity to it. We balance each other out.”

‘A TIGHT-KNIT FAMILY’

Jamie’s and Danny’s relationship is stronger than just their teamwork at The Niche. Danny grew up learning from the women he now calls boss, but has always called mom.

“She’s the hardest worker, I’ve gotten such a strong work ethic from her,” Danny said. “Watching her do it all on her own was pretty amazing.”

Assistant store manager Korinna Brock has worked at other places in Truckee, but said she’s found her niche at the new location.

“Working in a family business, it seems like everybody is one the same page,” said Korinna. “Jamie opened my eyes on how to match colors.”

Danny said he and his mother are “a tight-knit family” and that they are always talking about The Niche because it’s more of their hobby than business.

The duo plans to continue expanding The Niche on the West Coast. Jamie wants to open The Niche in her hometown in Colorado, and a location in Roseville, Calif., is in the works as well. Seattle and Sacramento are other possible locations for future Niches.

“It’s like a hobby,” Danny said. “We want to see how big we can get it.”

Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at jluna0928@gmail.com.

“It’s convenient here for people to just pull up and come inside. We’re meeting a lot of locals who never made it over to the other location.”
Danny Manguso


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 17, 2013 04:09PM Published Oct 22, 2013 02:40PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.