Biz Beat

April 26, 2014

Business Beat: Boutique business booming in Turlock, Modesto

This week, boutiques are making news — one opening on Main Street in Turlock, and another in downtown Modesto changing hands after several years.

Biz Beat

Latest news from the Modesto-area business scene

It’s Boutique Week here at Business Beat.

At the risk of using a term I find really annoying – boutiques – these smaller, independent shops selling clothes and accessories seem to be having a moment these days. Several have opened in recent years, joining longtime boutiques such as Eve and Me and Ragamuffin, which are both in Modesto’s McHenry Village.

The Village, as a matter of fact, is a good spot to find some of these niche stores, including Define, Christina’s and Envy. And some of these places have been so successful, they’re turning into minichains: Christina’s also operates shops in Merced, Danville and Fresno, and Envy has stores in Atwater and Turlock.

Speaking of Turlock, the city’s Main Street is another hot spot for boutiques. Glitz Fine Clothing, Simply Blinged and Cindy’s Doodads all operate there. Those are just a few of these kinds of specialty stores, which mainly focus on women but also can include clothes and other items for children and men.

This week, I want to tell you about two boutiques making news – one opening on the aforementioned Main Street in Turlock, and another in downtown Modesto that’s in the process of changing hands after several years.

Bonnie J. has operated in downtown Modesto since 2008, most recently at 1525 J St.

Owner Susan Johnston built up Bonnie J, which started with a focus on shoes and accessories before growing to include more clothes and jewelry. But Johnston recently relocated with her husband, former Modesto Bee Publisher Eric Johnston, who left for a job at a newspaper company in Seattle.

“It’s his turn to follow his dream since he let me follow mine in 2008,” Susan Johnston said in a note to her customers earlier this month.

But Bonnie J is here to stay, after Johnston’s friend Lisa Ardis stepped in to buy the shop.

Ardis, whose family co-owns Huff Construction, has a design background but not much in the way of retail experience. She’s been learning the ropes from Johnston, and is keeping the staff. She said she hopes to maintain the success Johnston built, along with adding her own touches.

A former specialist in staging homes for sale, Ardis said she plans to bring in some new furniture, as well as add some different merchandise. But she said she also will keep the kind of items that made Bonnie J a popular downtown stop for the past six years.

“I don’t plan any major changes,” she said.

For more information, call Bonnie J at (209) 521-2700.

Back in Turlock, Julie Loforti has opened Bella Forte. The boutique is tucked in behind Dust Bowl Brewing Co. in the Mercantile Building. It’s a place with which Loforti has a long history; her stepgrandfather owned and operated the Mercantile Building when it was a, well, mercantile.

“I grew up down here,” said Loforti, whose boutique bears the sign “Life’s Too Short to Wear Boring Clothes.”

Loforti, a former Walmart manager, said she was excited to open a store in the building. She carries lines that include LA Idol, Rock & Roll Cowgirl and Cut From the Cloth. She gets help picking pieces from her two daughters, 19 and 21. Also located in the store is Shabby Addy, which caters to clothes for young girls.

Loforti said it’s pretty exciting to be in downtown Turlock, where boutiques are prospering.

“We just have to make sure we don’t all have the same items,” she said. Places like Dust Bowl and a Mexican restaurant set to open across the street have done a lot to revitalize the area, she said.

So far, business has been strong. “My sales have been great every day,” she said.

Find Bella Forte at 200 W. Main St., Suite C. For more information, call (209) 664-1545.

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