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Style Expert Penny Gundry Spill About Their Passion

Written By: Kelly Emmer
Photographed By: Jane Chouteau ZENSE Palm Desert

Expert: Penny Gundry
Credentials: Owner of ZENSE

Q: Your store has a pretty unique name! How did you come up with ZENSE?

Penny Gundry: Creating a name for my boutique was a challenge since I wanted the store to have an Asian sensibility. One evening, my husband and I shared a bottle of wine (red wine, of course, per Dr. Gundry) and we played with the word ZEN and suddenly, ZENSE appeared. It had good mouth feel, just like the wine we were drinking. Of course, once I opened ZENSE, customers wanted to know what the word meant so I had to create a definition which was incorporated into our marketing: ZENSE (zen(t)s. noun) the Eastern practice of integrating the five senses to achieve ultimate harmony and fulfillment.

Q: You seem to do quite a bit of traveling. Do you have any favorite or inspirational stores?

PG: My favorite boutique in NYC was HANS Koch on Prince Street. He and his business partner, Reggie, created handmade handbags out of gorgeous German leathers in about 500-square feet of space. The showroom was in the front of the store and the design and manufacturing area was in the rear. The designs and colors that Hans created were a perfect complement to ZENSE. Unfortunately, Hans and Reggie retired and his sort of boutique is a dying breed in big cities. I always enjoy the gift store at the Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle [in NYC]. It presents a very nice selection of new innovative talent in the jewelry world.  

Q: To what do you owe your store success over the years?

PG: My step daughter, Melissa, is my store manager and is really responsible for the current success of ZENSE. She is my greatest joy and the person I look forward to seeing the most when going to work. Over the course of the 15 years ZENSE has been open, we have developed many strong friendships with our loyal customer base and it is such a pleasure to have them enjoy the store year after year.  

Q: Are you ever faced with uncomfortable decision-making? How do you handle it?

PG: When faced with conflict, my modus operandi has always been to walk away from it. As a business owner, this approach is not realistic and I have had to find a balance. Now, I am more willing to listen to the points of view of all parties involved. If it comes to an impasse and all sides have a valid point, I apply the baseball rule and the tie goes to the runner or in other words, the customer.

Q: What would you say has been one of your biggest accomplishments?

PG: Being voted one of GPS’s favorite females influencers has been quite an honor. It is a confirmation that the styles, attitudes and design, which I make available at ZENSE and which are a reflection of me, resonate strongly among so many discerning women and men within our community.

Q: You were originally pursuing an interior design degree. How did it lead to the creation of ZENSE?

PG: After graduating, I realized I had made a grave mistake and did not want to spend a year with a client deciding which shade of white paint to use in the interior of a home. So, the question became: what to do with the degree I had worked so hard to obtain? At that time, I had zero retail experience, but I had a concept of what the ideal shopping experience would consist of and I saw an opportunity to use my skills in the design and merchandising of a storefront. Upon completion of construction, the real challenge was: What sort of merchandise should I fill the shelves with? I decided on handbags and accessories and that is where my travel experience helped me. I discovered so many emerging designers from around the world that complemented the special ZENSE sense of style.

ZENSE
73255 El Paseo, Ste 20
Palm Desert, CA 92260
760.773.0789
Get to Know Penny Gundry of ZENSE