Two busy moms turn their friendship and flair for fun fashion into a budding empire.
Written byLinda Grasso •
As far as boutiques go, Soto is defying the odds. The women’s clothing and accessories store opened in 2006 in a recession. “We found a small space just south of the Boulevard on Topanga (hence the name) and decided to wing it,” Pam Frank explains.
“Winging it” has worked for the petite, energetic brunette and her statuesque, blonde partner, Jodi Perlman. The duo now has three stores plus two Soto Lifestyles—a chain that stretches from Studio City to Westlake Village and employs 40 people.
Soto’s concept is simple—think Forever 21 but for moms. “Originally we were after the teenager market, but we discovered teens’ tastes are fickle,” remembers Jodi. Plus, she says, “When moms and daughters came in together, we found that the moms were buying more than their daughters.”
Jodi credits Pam’s great taste for much of their success. Unlike Jodi, “the people person,” you won’t find Pam in stores much. She’s out tracking down the most chic duds she can find. “But they must be a great price,” she insists, adding, “We offer clothes women can afford. It’s awful to look at something and really want it and not be able to buy it. Our clothes are stylish and affordable.”
While Soto’s prices are low-end, service, they claim, is top-notch and at times a bit old school. “We don’t even use computers. We hand-write sales receipts,” says Jodi. Plus, they aren’t afraid of the truth. ”We believe in honest advice. It something looks awful, we’ll tell you and pick out something that looks fantastic.”
Jodi and Pam had been friends for a decade when they embarked on their joint venture. With three kids each, the entrepreneurs say it wasn’t as if they were two moms “looking for something to do.”
“We had a distinct vision. We wanted to create a community store,” explains Jodi, before abruptly exiting our interview to jetison to a dressing room. A customer has emerged in an outfit, and Jodi can’t resist weighing in. “We really love being in this business!” she quips upon returning.
Owners Jodi Perlman and Pam Frank
But what about the love the two have for each other? Was there ever a concern their friendship might be jeopardized? “We have never had one single blow-up, before or after opening the stores,” says Pam. The reason? “Pam is always right,” Jodie states with a smile.
4865 Topanga Canyon Blvd. Woodland Hills | 818-346-7686 (Soto Lifestyle is next door) 12206 Ventura Blvd. Studio City | 818-980-7686 sotoboutique.com