New York has Seventh Avenue, known as Fashion Avenue as it runs through the fashion district. Paris has Avenue Montaigne, and downtown Fairfield has a new address in its line up of ladies' clothing and accessories boutiques.

It's called Apricot Lane.

Diane Holtz celebrated the grand opening of her Apricot Lane on March 24. The Westport woman has worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years as a senior executive for Bloomingdales, Ann Taylor and The Limited, and she teaches fashion merchandising at the Fashion Institute of America.

"My background is merchandising and product development. I love the fashion business and I love working with customers. I wanted to take those skills and talents and apply them to my own business," said Holtz, who chose the support of the Apricot Lane national fashion franchise rather than going it alone.

"I've never negotiated a lease in my life or selected a computer system. (Apricot Lane) allows you to make your own decisions and select your own merchandise, and they are there for you for operational support," Holtz said.

Hers is the first Apricot Lane to open in New England. There is only one other in the Northeast, in Syracuse, N.Y.

According to the company's website, Apricot Lane retail boutiques are supported by the franchise company Country Visions. Former firefighters and furniture retailers Ken Petersen and Tom Brady opened their first retail gift store in August 1991 at Vacaville, Calif., under the name Country Clutter.

Apricot Lane carries a wide range of items including clothing, jewelry, hats, and purses. The boutique also has an assortment of brands, such as B.B. Dakota, Velvet Heart, Joie, Ecru and Rock Revival.

"It's a fun fashion boutique," Holtz said, describing the style of the clothing as relaxed and refined, a combination of California trends and east coast refinement. She expects the lines she carries will appeal to moms and to the fashion-conscious college crowd.

Holtz has two full-time and eight part-time fashion savvy consultants and associates, among them Lily Dowling, 17, of Fairfield.

"I love clothes and fashion, so I looked at the website and the clothes were awesome. I would wear anything here," Dowling said.

First Selectman Kenneth Flatto attended the grand opening and said it indicates an improving economy.

"This is a great addition to downtown Fairfield. This is the third ribbon-cutting we've done in Fairfield in the last three weeks," he said.

For hours, information about hosting fashion parties and more about the merchandise call Apricot Lane, 1499 Post Road, at 203-292-9888 or visit www.apricotlanefairfield.com.