Photos by Drea Atkins
February 25, 2016
Hope Nicholls is careful to not call herself a native Charlottean but she might as well be, especially when you witness the passion with which she describes her connection to Charlotte’s history and its future. Although she grew up in Davidson, she’s not quick to claim the coveted Charlotte Native title because she has such a deeply rooted respect for the place she and her husband have chosen to raise their children that she wouldn’t adopt it as her own on a technicality. Nicholls’ heart is 100% Charlotte, though. “We need to quit thinking every 10 or 20 years, ‘Well, we did this or that, but now we can do it better.’ Quit tearing down coliseums, malls, [or] whole neighborhoods just because someone thinks it can be improved or done better. Build it right the first time. I think Charlotte needs to believe more in itself.”
Yeah, Nicholls is not a Charlotte Native, but she sure gives us all a run for our money in her love for Charlotte: it’s somewhere she is willing to fight for, somewhere we should all fight for. “My hope is that more people will wake up to the scam of hasty development and become involved in the neighborhoods that matter to them. Otherwise you can just assume Plaza Midwood will go down like Eastland Mall and North Davidson Street will look like South Boulevard.”
After a successful career as a traveling musician with several bands including Fetchin Bones, Sugarsmack, and Snagglepuss, Nicholls opened her Plaza Midwood boutique, Boris and Natasha in 1999. When she was on the road, she shopped at local clothing stores in cities across the country, cultivating a passion for fashion. After helping a friend run the former Superior Feet boutique (where 22 is currently), she decided to strike out on her own. You won’t find things at Boris and Natasha that don’t have Nicholls’ personal stamp of approval. She doesn’t go on buying trips to find what’s trendy or of the moment and the collection of funky yet classic pieces that line her racks reflects this very intentional goal and idea that “Fashion is self expression,” as Nicholls says. “The dress-to-impress mentality shows a fundamental lack of confidence. Confidence is hot! Wear what you like and wear it with pride.”
Nicholls’ advice for fine-tuning your personal style is to think back to what you liked when you were really young and unapologetic in your outfit choices of tutus paired with cowboy boots because you dressed in what made you happy (if you were allowed by mom and dad). “I buy for all of the mes [people like me], even the ones not currently alive.” For Nicholls, crop tops were her go-tos so she now wears them over other shirts as a top layer.
Before Nicholls brought her signature style to Plaza Midwood, she rocked out on stages across the country. Now that she stays close to home in the Queen City, The Milestone Club is a favorite performance venue. “It’s always the best room sound and an insane party if you get enough people in there,” says Nicholls. Her biggest joy in performing comes from connecting with the people in the audience making other small venues like The Thirsty Beaver highlights as well.
As for favorite local acts beside her new project, It’s Snakes!, Nicholls loves Ancient Cities, Serfs, Miami Dice, Business People, Patabamba, Shadowgraphs!, Fat Face Band, Temperance League, Mike Strauss Band, The Chalkies, and Don Telling. Currently Nicholls plays drums and and does vocals for It’s Snakes!. “[I am] so glad to be writing new songs, getting to do shows, playing drums. It’s like crossword puzzles for me, keeping my mind nimble by learning a whole new thing – drums and singing at the same time.”
The recipe for success in breaking out on your own according to Nicholls is to follow your heart. “When you do what you love, it’s fun and not a job. Really money is just a byproduct of doing a good job. So if you do what you love and do it well, the money will come as a bonus.”
Go to Boris and Natasha, chat with the bespectacled gal that owns what has become a Charlotte institution and local gem. Ask her about fashion, music, Charlotte’s history, and Charlotte’s future and you’ll discover a living institution right in front of you.
More photos of the many products offered at Boris + Natasha by Drea Atkins
Boris+Natasha is located at
1214 Thomas Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205