Located at the gateway to Palm Springs’ Uptown Art and Design District, Just Fabulous is an upscale gift boutique and book store. The shop caters to the local community as well as to weekenders and tourists, and celebrates a diverse clientele. It offers a wide array of merchandise to suit everyone — including stunning coffee table books, home décor items, gifts, candles, clocks, novelties, greeting cards, and Palm Springs souvenirs. The store’s display includes fashion, autobiographies, and personal growth literature. Shoppers can also find signed and numbered collectible art.
An Inspiring Moment
Owner Stephen Monkarsh opened this eclectic shop in 2007 after making a major detour in his career as an attorney in Los Angeles. His beloved mother had recently passed away, and he was struggling with an injured back. While chatting with a friend over coffee at a Palm Beach cafe, he looked up and saw a sign advertising an available retail space and recalled thinking it would be great if people could get a coffee and read a book. He realized that Palm Springs needed an upscale boutique that would showcase unique merchandise while providing a superior level of customer service.
Just two months later, Monkarsh opened Palm Springs California Gift Shop: Just Fabulous, despite friends’ concerns about vacant storefronts during a downturned economy. “I’m a visionary,” he said. “I knew in my heart I could make this work. It happened so fast. It was meant to be, how everything fell into place.”
He felt as if his mom, an artist herself, was directing his next move. “Sometimes, I can almost feel her presence here,” he said. “She was a big inspiration for the store,” meaning the bright pink flamingos, pool accessories, Hollywood glamour shots, pop-up books, and classic coffee table books about Modernism design and fashion. Stephen’s vision was to create a unique shopping experience for locals and tourists of Palm Springs where everyone could feel “just fabulous.”
Growth and Expansion
In 2010, he had the opportunity to triple the size of the shop from 800 to 2,500 square feet. This expansion allowed Stephen’s store to become a “lifestyle” boutique offering a wider array of merchandise to suit the interests of a diverse clientele. In addition to gifts and greeting cards, they expanded to carry a large collection of Jonathan Adler furniture, accessories, and gift items. They became even more well known for their renowned collection of coffee table books, featuring publishers such as Taschen, Rizzoli, and Assouline, a high-end Parisian publishing house. In addition, the Museum of Modern Art selected Just Fabulous for its first off-site MoMA Books “Shop in Shop” in the USA.
Rising to the Challenge
“I won’t tell you that we didn’t have our challenges,” Stephen said. “To fill up a store of 2,500 square feet was a challenge … especially at that time.” He has made it through some challenging times and credits a phenomenal team of people working at the store. “They are all dedicated, motivated, loyal, hardworking, and do a great job. I really want them to know how much I care about them and how much I appreciate them.”
A Way of Life
Growing up in Beverly Hills, Stephen, an avid reader, would enjoy books at a local bookseller, particularly coffee table and photography books. Inspired by an introduction to art and architecture through his mother, and on-the-job training at Saks Fifth Avenue, he acquired an impeccable eye for curation and developed customer service skills that have served him well as a retailer.
“To me, Just Fabulous is a way of life, it’s a way of thinking, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a mindset. When somebody walks in the door, I want them to feel just fabulous, whether they buy a card for $2.50 or buy a photograph for $2,500; it doesn’t matter to me. I think it makes such huge difference when you really give people excellent customer service. I think we’re known for that; that makes me very proud.”
Local and International Appeal
Stephen always keeps his eyes peeled for new, exciting vendors and products at trade shows in the United States and abroad, with the goal in mind of bringing an assortment of unique and kitschy products not found anywhere else. He also makes an effort to support local artisans. Palm Springs celebrates Modernism, architecture, and design, so he is always looking for merchandise that fits in his local community.
“I’ve loved photography, books, and art all my life,” said Monkarsh, who studied film for a year and travels as often as he can. He is especially fond of his greeting card selection. He said, “I’m very sentimental. I used to buy my mom, or anyone, multiple cards. I have always loved to celebrate. In life, we are always celebrating something.”
Palm Springs California Gift Shop: Just Fabulous Facts at a Glace:
Location: 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262