Tahoe University in downtown Truckee is a one-stop shop that embodies Tahoe lifestyle
You’ve seen the big, beautiful white building with the wrap-around porch smack-dab in the heart of downtown Truckee, but have you stepped inside?
Once you do, you’re immediately welcomed into the Old Star Hotel, which has received a major facelift and now features high-end apparel, home goods, even full interior design and custom furniture, in a department store-esque boutique shop.
Marne Bormann and Erin Wilkinson own Tahoe University, which is so much more than the hip clothing and home store that meets the eye; it’s really a lifestyle brand.
“We had a customer who was wearing a Tahoe U T-shirt and he walked right up to me and said, ‘I went to Tahoe University and majored in fun!’ — he just got it,” said Laura Lawson Visconti, head of marketing, on the philosophy and vibe behind the lifestyle brand’s name.
“The products we carry you will not find anywhere in North Lake Tahoe,” she said. “They’re very unique, curated items — we’re like a treasure chest that really has something for everyone, even affordable denim.”
Apart from selling apparel, home and lifestyle products, Tahoe University also has a children-friendly playroom, showcasing clothing and accessories, and serving as hours of entertainment for the little ones.
The store really exists as a communal and inclusive space with their name serving as an ode to a playful spirit and sense of community.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Visconti said. “Zoltar is like our mascot and our official motto is ‘No bad days’ — we embody the spirit of why everyone lives in Tahoe.”
The “Zoltar” is the newest addition to the shop, an awesome coin-operated machine with a fortune-teller who sees all — and for only $1.
“Everyone here has found a regenerating spirit in Truckee and Tahoe,” Visconti went on to say.
“We all came here for very intentional reasons: to restart, raise families and be part of this beautiful, outdoor community.”
Tahoe University offers a comfortable outdoor lounge and workspace with complimentary WiFi for locals and visitors who might need to plug in, meet up, or just enjoy the beautiful day with a view of downtown.
With a sense of humor and sass in everything they do, the women of Tahoe University fiercely encourage other women and local business owners.
“We really love supporting local nonprofits and other businesses, especially empowering women,” Visconti said.
“Rather than seeing anyone as competition, we want to rally everyone and promote one another. It’s part of who we are, we love and want to embrace our community rather than isolate ourselves and compete.”
In support of local businesses, artists and nonprofits, Tahoe University has worked with several other groups and businesses to host art-themed community events. This way, they’re able to highlight local talent while also drawing awareness to a cause and financially supporting their community colleagues.
“A lot of our clients and employees are moms and business owners, and this is a place for them to find refuge; it’s an opportunity to find community in every sense of the word,” Visconti said.
Tahoe University’s inventory allows locals and visitors to get the department store finds they’re searching for without needing to make a trip to Reno.
For those who live away from Truckee, Tahoe U’s team offers complimentary private flights to easily access their custom furniture and interior design process.
Visiting the brick-and-mortar shop is an experience in itself. The 5,000 square-foot building houses everything from swimwear to the perfect couch.
Downstairs are several rooms organizing men and women’s clothing, accessories, and gifts.
Upstairs, the rooms are dedicated to home décor and curated art pieces, linens and bedding, furniture, and even a room for marked-down items.
“There’s a discount room in the store, but we also offer a local’s discount,” Visconti said.
“We keep our eyes peeled and our ears to the ground to be aware of people in need, even people who just need a place. We rally behind our customers to support them with giveaways like free concert tickets, massages, flights; we love giving back to the community.”
One of the shop’s fun events was held last Valentine’s Day, where they invited single locals to shop, laugh, and enjoy good company.
On other occasions, the Tahoe U crew has assisted a local family in ensuring their child a safe, complimentary flight to expensive medical treatments located outside of driving distance.
Next on the horizon is a new Home & Lifestyle Concierge branch of Tahoe University, where their team will be readily available and heavily involved in the client’s home design and home-staging process.
They will have a concierge service to reserve tickets, stock groceries and curate the North Lake Tahoe experience, marrying the apparel and home good branch with aviation and the lifestyle brand.
In the immediate future, Tahoe University is celebrating one year of no bad days with their first anniversary party on July 1. From 2-5 p.m. the Tahoe U crew invites locals to enjoy food and beer from FiftyFity, play games outside, and shop for the next addition to your story.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.