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Laura Zima inside her new downtown Detroit Lakes clothing store. PAULA QUAM/TRIBUNE

Clothing store opens in downtown DL

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Laura Zima has always loved that phrase “Dressed to the Nines.”

“You know … when someone is really looking great,” said Zima, who now walks around her new ladies clothing store called “The Nines.”

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Mannequins with the latest in sundresses and fashions can be seen in the windows of The Nines, which opened June 15 on Washington Avenue in downtown Detroit Lakes.

Although the space still has some of the charm left over from its previous business, Amazing Mae’s Tea Parlor and the Whatever Boutique, Zima and her husband, Steve, have worked hard at giving the space a spark and flare that reflect the fun and fashion Lauren has wanted to bring to Detroit Lakes for a long time.

“I’ve struggled to find things in my size,” said the small-framed entrepreneur, “and I also have family members who are a 2-X, and they’ve had troubles finding fashionable things (in Detroit Lakes) in their size, and so I wanted a place where people, no matter what size they were, could shop together and find cute stuff.”

That “cute stuff” is found in sizes 0 to 24, as the Nines offers up designer clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry. 

“Through some of my connections in the fashion industry in Dallas and some in L.A., I try to find some fun clothes that aren’t super expensive but that are quality,” said Zima, “and then I carry just a couple of racks of consignment, just because I think that can be a fun way to shop — it’s always a rush going in and getting a really expensive brand name jean for 8 to 15 bucks.”

And yes, she did say her “connections in the fashion industry.”

The lady behind The Nines

Lauren Zima grew up in Moorhead, spending every summer at her grandparents’ cabin on Lake Sallie in Detroit Lakes.  “When I was younger, I was always my family and friends’ personal stylist, but I didn’t really realize it was my calling,” she said, adding that she joined the army when she was 18 to become a helicopter mechanic.

An injury to her feet, knees and back her first year in the service meant her time in the Army was cut short as she was honorably discharged. But, she says, the Army taught her a lot in her short stint.

 “I learned at a young age that I could overcome my fears and it also taught me to appreciate all the small things in life that I used to take for granted,” said Zima, who then moved to Dallas.

She waited tables, bartended and even sold real estate to fund what she really wanted to do, which was to explore the world of fashion.

“I invented something called ‘Delicate Drops’” said Zima. “It’s a product that protects bras in the washing machine. I got the idea from the hat caddy for guys where they throw their hats in, but I basically designed and patented one that you put bras in and throw in the wash.”

Zima says it took her four years to design the product, patent it and get it on the market.

“To come up with funds to bring my invention to fruition, I sold everything I owned, including my vehicle and furniture, in order to come up with enough money to have a mold made in china so my product could be produced,” said Zima.

“I also worked as a Realtor and had a few online businesses that helped fund my operation until 2006 when I was able to just travel and sell my Delicate Drops full time all over the U.S. at many different Apparel & Accessory Trade Shows.”

During this time, Zima says being around fashion shows and the industry made her start thinking about opening up her own store. But she also began thinking about moving back home to Minnesota, and Detroit Lakes had always been “a special place” for her.

“I wanted to come home and start over and start a family,” said Zima, who says she sold out of her businesses and began a new adventure with her husband, who is from Waubun.

The two now have four little boys, and as Lauren began making plans for her new store, the couple also purchased the building attached to the mall that housed the Red Willow.

“Steve is renovating,” said Zima, who says that building will offer five brand new apartments with a rooftop patio that are expected to be completed in October.  But while Steve is supposed to be working on that, Lauren says The Nines has been so busy that she has recruited him for help, as well as hiring two others.

“It’s been so constant,” said Zima, looking around her store, “I just wanted this to be a fun place, especially when these winters get long.  It’s not even about necessarily about people buying stuff, but I just want this to be a place where people come in and if it’s a girls day, family day, whatever, just to have a fun place to shop locally and not always have to be driving.”

Zima says she’s getting ready to head to Vegas soon to pick out her fall apparel and promises to come back with some fun, unique things.

“And I order small quantities of everything too,” she said, adding that she likes to keep things new and fresh.

And because it seems she doesn’t like to stand still too long, Zima is already thinking about the future for her store.

“I’d like to get a website and start doing some online sales,” she said, “and maybe sometime down the line open up a second location somewhere.”

The Nines can be ‘liked’ on Facebook, and in person by stopping by the store at 910 Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes.  Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6p.m. on Sunday.

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