By Ron VandenBoom
It was Karen Paronto's belief that Havre needed a clothing store that offered quality clothes at a reasonable price that prompted her to open Northern Casuals -- Havre's newest fashion choice.
"I'd been thinking about it ever since Maurice's went out of business," Paronto said, referring to the opening of her new store in the Atrium Mall. "So I called Lois in June or July ... and she said yeah, she'd price manage for me."
Lois Pomeroy is the manager of Northern Casuals and before joining with Paronto to help open Northern Casuals, she was the manager of Maurice's.
"I believe my seven years servicing our local market in Maurice's was definitely essential in picking out what people want for our market," she said.
It was a market that up to now consisted of mostly high-end fashions or low-end casuals that offered little choice to consumers. What Northern Casuals wanted was to fill a need -- a need for choice.
"We knew that people in town needed choices and that's what we did it for," Paronto said.
Northern Casuals offers quality name-brand fashions at prices that are within the average budget.
"I've heard a lot of people say 'thank you,'" Paronto said, "because they appreciate that we're supplying them a fashionable choice at a reasonable price."
Pomeroy agrees, stating that price is "a very big factor," and adding that they have seen a great response from their prices so far.
It's not an easy thing to accomplish, Pomeroy said. "Corporate America can offer a lot more goods at cheaper prices than an independent businessman -- as we found out at market. When you're going in and buying 10 of something, and not 10,000 of something you're going to pay a little higher price."
Higher prices at market, however, do not seem to have prevented Northern Casuals from finding just the right fashions at just the right prices to appeal to local customers.
The fashions include many name brands including Calvin Kline, Cypress Creek, and Tommy Lucky and also include a large variety of sizes from teen-age through adult.
But if it's a question of size or color, Northern Casuals will be more than happy to try and accommodate special orders.
"We have a little bit of choice for everybody," Pomeroy said.
That choice includes a men's fashion section, including the hot fashion ticket this season -- fleece and berber vests.
Northern Casuals opened its doors on Friday, Nov. 12, and according to Paronto and Pomeroy, business has been good. But on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 26-27, they expect to be even busier when they hold their open house.
Coupled with this year's Christmas Stroll, Northern Casuals will be offering drawings for gift certificates, a watch, and other prizes, as well as offering a flat 10 percent discount on all items in the store except for a few name brands.
Coffee and cookies will be served to all their friends and customers who stop by.
Northern Casual has been a long and sleepless trek from conception to fruition for Paronto. After nearly 25 years with Buttrey's and now Albertson's grocery stores, she was striking out in a new and unknown direction.
"I kept asking questions like 'why am I doing this,'" she said, as she explained her feelings over the last several months. "But I just continue to move on because I know that Havre wants choices and I believe in Havre. I believe something can be done."
Paronto said she will continue to work part-time at Albertson's while her business is getting off of the ground, but she hopes the time will come when Northern Casuals will be her full-time occupation.
"I just thought it was time to move on and do something exciting," she said.