By Audrey Prisk
Point Park News Service
Boutique La Passarelle, a Wood Street shop that sells women’s clothing and accessories, catches the eyes of passersby with its ever-changing window displays.
Anna Ciaccio has been working with the store’s owner, Cidália Duarte, almost since day one of the store’s 2010 opening to create the innovative displays.
“Things are great,” Ciaccio said. “I was here before Market Square was finished and since then, it’s been a significant change in traffic, especially on Saturdays.”
Ciaccio said she feels excited about the retail revitalization taking place in Downtown. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl unveiled a new retail strategy for the next three years focused on small, unique retail stores like Boutique La Passarelle.
But it’s not just Downtown where retail businesses are thriving. Last year, Kathryn Richardson opened up Rosewood Boutique, her first Pittsburgh women’s clothing and accessories store, in Sewickley. The store did so well that Richardson opened a second Rosewood Boutique on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon in August.
“We never just assume things are going to do well so we always test out the market,” Richardson said. “When it was successful there (in Sewickley) we opened another one on a slightly bigger scale in Mt. Lebanon.”
The success of boutique stores underscores Pittsburgh’s rapid recovery from the national recession, retailers said.
Brad Kelly, director of Retail Services with Colliers International, a market research firm, said Pittsburgh has four retail markets: North, consisting of Cranberry and Wexford; South, consisting of the South Hills and Mt. Lebanon; East, consisting of Monroeville and Murrysville; and West, consisting of Robinson. Ravenstahl’s plan addresses only the core of Pittsburgh’s downtown.
When asked if she would consider opening a boutique Downtown, Richardson said that she would prefer to test the waters first.
“We would always throw it around but it’s a different clientele and you have more of the lunch crowd of business women,” Richardson said. “I wouldn’t be against doing a pop up shop to test it out before committing long term.”
These women don’t just credit their locations as helping their business, but also the unique “boutique experience” and faithful customers.
“I think with boutiques you get a more personal experience from the owners and their employees,” Richardson said. “At Rosewood, we like to build a personal relationship with our customers by remembering their names and letting them know when a certain style arrives.”
“It’s definitely a personal experience,” she said. “When a woman comes in, I know if she’s a size 4 or size 6; I’ll know her personal style before she even speaks.”
College student and boutique shopper Cora Hargis, 22, explained why she prefers smaller stores to the larger ones.
“I love how knowledgeable they (boutique owners) are and how helpful they can be,” Hargis said.
Ciacco expanded on this reasoning.
“The ‘large guys’ like Macy’s will have seventeen million of the same thing,” Ciaccio said. “Cidália travels to Portugal twice a year to bring back pieces that make our store the only one in America to carry them.”
Richardson continues with her customer-first view for her stores.
“We bring new unique clothing at an affordable price and it comes in twice a week,” Richardson said. “We pride ourselves in ordering things that work for our customers.”