When Jodi Perlman and Pam Frank opened their first Soto boutique on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in 2006, retail was in the dumps. “People were like, ‘You are crazy to open a store right now.’ But it was hard to find a boutique in the Valley where you could get old-fashioned customer service with good prices. We thought we had an innovative idea,” Pam shares.
Turns out she was right. That first Soto (which stands for south of Topanga) was an overnight hit, and five more stores across the Valley followed, including Soto Lifestyle, an offshoot in which they took on a partner. Today Soto has more than 50 employees.
The women, close friends and both with retail backgrounds, felt their talents complemented each other. “Pam loves to buy, and I love to sell. We are the puzzle that fits together,” Jodi explains.
This past fall the duo made their most ambitious move in a decade, closing the side-by-side original stores on Topanga Canyon (Soto and Soto Lifestyle) and reopening more expansive versions in Woodland Hills at the new Valley Country Market shopping center.
With high ceilings and a light-filled, airy vibe, the new stores have a combined square footage of 2,800 feet and offer everything from knockoff Golden Goose sneakers (instead of $500-600, they’re $100-150) to vintage, oversize pillows.
When they first started out, Pam set her sights on merchandise aimed at tweens and juniors. But she quickly spotted an opportunity. “Mothers would come in with their daughters and they wanted to shop, too. So I started including items that moms would like, and it caught on.” Pam, who has three daughters, describes their clientele as “everyone from 16-year-olds to mothers-in-law in their 70s.” In particular, she loves well-done knockoffs. “We offer items based on value. If I find something that looks like it could be a lot more money, then it’s a great Soto item.”
For spring, Pam says the stores will carry “a lot of big, puffy shoulders, fitted bodies, romantic skirts, and prints with a lot of color. Think pink, blush and pastels.”
Over the past 15 years, the landscape has changed. Jodi says, “We’ve both watched our own kids get older and our younger clients grow up. Some are now coming in with their daughters. But for Pam and me, the experience has stayed much the same.
“We love it now as much as we did the day we signed our first lease in 2006.”
The food is only part of the charm.