THE BOUTIQUE BOOM
BUSINESS IS GOOD AND STORES ARE POPPING UP WITH GREAT FREQUENCY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. HERE’S A LOOK AT TWO NEW ADDITIONS TO THE LOCAL RETAIL SCENE.

Byline: Teena Hammond

Jill Roberts: Closet Queen

BEVERLY HILLS — “It’s like walking into Jill’s bigger closet,” says retailer Jill Roberts, describing her new store on Beverly Drive.
Roberts has always referred to her original, 600-square-foot store on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica as stocking clothes similar to those in her closet at home. The new one has the same feel, only in an expanded, 2,300-square-foot space with cozy decor, such as a green-and-white-plaid upholstered bench with hot pink cushions, white painted cabinets with scalloped trim and tan carpeting. The shoe area, in the back corner, includes a green stained hardwood floor and pink benches with green cushions.
“I wanted it to feel very homey and warm. If you notice, I put carpet on the floor. Everybody is doing hardwood and stone floors, which gives a cold atmosphere to retail. I want it to feel warm and inviting and very house-like,” Roberts said.
The store, at 417 North Beverly Drive, opened Aug. 24 and is expected to pull in $2 million in sales during the first 12 months of operation, said Mark Freeman, Roberts’ husband and business partner.
Such celebrities as Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and Minnie Driver are all recent customers of Roberts’s Santa Monica store, and Tina Turner has already popped into the new location.
“She loved it. Tina was in her car, with a driver, on the way to the airport and she saw a red girl’s dress in the window and made him stop. She bought a ton of children’s clothes and a few accessories for herself, since she didn’t have time to try on anything,” Roberts recounted.
Children’s and gift items are only available at the Beverly Hills store. In Santa Monica, there just isn’t enough space. Although a few styles of shoes are sold in Santa Monica, the department is expanded at the new store with Sigerson Morrison, Patty Shelebarger, Lava Mandel and classic Tretorn canvas tennis shoes offered.
“I’ve already had a lot of new customers who live on the eastern side of town and who didn’t know about my store,” Roberts said. The new store is about 10 miles east of the Santa Monica unit, a drive that can take up to 45 minutes during rush hour traffic.
Early bestsellers include cashmere sweaters from Aquah and Velvet as well as batik sarongs with bikini tops to match. The sarongs “are not even a brand or anything. It’s just that anything in a bright color is selling. I even pulled a couple of bright beaded orange Patty Shelebarger skirts [from Santa Monica] and brought them to the new store and they sold out,” Roberts said.
Roberts will add the Patty Shelebarger line to the new store this fall. Current offerings include Les Prairies de Paris, Claudie Pierlot, Kors, Chaiken & Capone and Paul & Joe. T-shirts also sell fast from such resources as Juicy Couture, Petit Bateau and Velvet. A new line of quirky T-shirts is being offered by Lulu LeMay. “All in all, it’s the same as in Santa Monica,” Roberts said of the clothing mix.
The bright colors for late summer will give way to a more basic palette for fall.
“I bought much more black and white than gray. I’m so tired of gray; even though I do have some, it’s very little compared to last year,” Roberts said. “I’m adding in the neutral tones like ecru and browns and pony hair and animal prints and I love mixing that with the red. I’m really keen on yellow. I’m moving forward with yellow in a really big way for spring.”
An expanded accessories collection is also available, with jewelry from Sage and Chan Lu among the mix. Cowhide bandannas and headbands from Colette Maulouf are selling fast, as well as colorful beaded pashmina handbags from Mandala and bright canvas bags by Chuck Roaste.
“My style is classic with a little bit of a twist. I never get really trendy,” Roberts said.
The strength of her business has encouraged Roberts to remodel her Santa Monica unit. The work will begin in January and the plan is to turn the original space into a shoe store and find another location nearby to open a larger clothing store.
Roberts is also eyeing the possibility of opening in San Francisco and Orange County. “But not yet. I need a couple years off. I want to make redoing Santa Monica a priority.”