FARGO — After 31 years in business, Marjorie Norris Thompson has announced plans to close Downtown Diva, her women's clothing boutique on a prime corner of downtown Fargo along Main Avenue at 1 Eighth St. S.
While she refers to running the business as the ride of her life, she said two "savvy women" recently helped her decide it was time to close while on a trip to Fort Myers, Fla.
"As we walked the beach, we talked about what was actually going on in my life and how maybe I wasn't as excited about what I was doing anymore. It's gotten progressively harder over the years," she said. "And there's going to be a whole bunch of (Main Avenue) street repair going on next summer, so I decided at that point that possibly the horse was dead and I should quit beating it."
That sense of humor is one of the things that has kept customers coming back all of these years.
"We've had so much fun. We've laughed until our sides hurt. Nothing is sacred here at Downtown Diva. Nothing. But it never leaves the Diva," she said.
Norris Thompson said she has no plans to retire.
"No, I can't live in my car and eat cat food. There's no retiring for this old bag," she joked.
If she has her way, Norris Thompson said she'd like to go work for RSVP Bride by Alan Evans in Fargo.
"I think that's something I would excel in because I love that one-on-one. I like to dress women for special events and I really want you to look good. That's so important to me. I just want you to own the room, whether you want to or not," she said.
'I can make that'
It all began with one glittery T-shirt.
While in Wisconsin to open a tanning and toning salon over 30 years ago, Norris Thompson picked up a shirt for sale in the lobby.
Her husband, Richard Thompson, asked how much she paid for it. When he found out, he said, "I can make that."
She said the next day he picked up a three-pack of T-shirts from Dayton's and paint, glitter and lamé from an area craft store.
"He whipped up these incredible shirts," Norris Thompson said.
She brought them to her place of work and they sold right away.
"Then we started painting T-shirts. We moved to tennis shoes. We did clothing and jewelry. We just became this little cottage industry at home," she said.
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They opened the retail store, first doing business as Haute Boutique, on Oct. 4, 1989.
Downtown has changed a great deal since then.
"It's absolutely become the divine place to do business. ... It's so much fun to be downtown. People are everywhere," she said. "But I realized I was kind of past my prime. My kind of customer service is no longer really required, but I so like to do it. Now, you’re on the phone, and I think you’re talking to me. That’s always embarrassing. I could kind of see the handwriting on the wall. But I think downtown is going to continue to thrive and grow. I would just like people to know what a privilege it's been to be on this corner for 31 years."
Norris Thompson is calling her going out of business sale a "retail garage sale."
Most of her clothing has already been sold. While she still has a lot of accessories available, the majority of her sale items are decorations she's used in her windows along Eighth Street and Main Avenue.
"These are all the things I have used in my windows. ... I have had the most fun being able to play in the windows. It's brought great joy to people and that makes me happy," she said. "Now, everyone gets to share in my happiness."