Walking into Lencería Boutique (whose name means “home linens and lingerie") is like walking into your own personal boudoir. If your boudoir has a kind, smart, quick-to-laugh owner who can pick out incredible lingerie for you and make you feel insanely comfortable and sexy.
As I chat with boutique owner, Juliana Correa, over lattes that she so graciously made for us, we crack up literally just talking about life. Smooth music mix plays lightly in the background as we sip on our coffee. I know I’ve made a new friend, as we chat about our cats' odd behavior and how much we unconditionally love them anyway.
She is so fun to interview because she is always so interested in whomever she’s speaking with. It's rare: she asked me just as many questions as I asked her!
We sit on the luscious couches towards the back of her second store on Melrose (she moved from her first Sunset location just a few months ago).
As our giggles wane,
B: So, where are you from?
J: I’m from Colombia originally, but I moved to Miami when I was very young…I was like 12 years old. From Miami to New York. New York to Arizona, where I met my husband, and that’s how I moved to LA…my husband got a job here.
B: [Thinking, unsuccessfully, of ways to portray her incredible Colombian accent on my blog…] What was it that really brought you here?
J: The real reason was my husband got a job here *laughs.* We were in business school and he was looking for a job in LA and I was looking for a job in New York. He got his job in LA right away, so we moved here. And we thought it would be just a two- or three-year plan, but I think now it’s for the long run.
B: What’s the deciding factor on that?
J: I think the business. I’m not sure if I could have done what I’m doing here in NY…I think the store is made for LA. Also just work and friends and LA has been a lot better than we were expecting.
B: Did LA inspire your store?
J: Yes, I had only been to LA once. I was very, very young. And when I did the business plan for this boutique, I made the store in LA –very LA specific. And I had, in my research, put this store in the business plan two doors down from where I was in my first location!
B: Oh wow!
[While receiving her MBA, Juliana made plans to create this store in Los Angeles. Years later, when she was ready to actualize her dream plan from business school, she realized that she signed a lease for a location just two doors down from where she had hypothetically placed it in her business plan.]
J: The reason I made it in LA, even though I had not really been to LA, is that all the brands that I started with were not very well known in LA. Only in Miami and NY, which were the only two other cities I knew in the US. I wanted to bring this lifestyle and look to LA.
B: So you’re the pioneer for the brands you carry – that’s incredible.
J: A lot of these brands, yes. Nobody else had them and now a lot of people have them in LA. They’re brands that people seek out and know of them by the time they get here.
B: I think its very cool that you have the whole “try on” experience [you can try on lingerie with your partner present] – a lot of your store is dedicated to being able to try on the lingerie. Is that intentional?
J: Yes, it’s a little nerve wracking to try on such intimate things and I think one of my biggest issues whenever I go lingerie shopping or swimwear shopping is this: the idea of like, too many people passing through or just not feeling comfortable. Also there is a sense of vulnerability, so I want to make it as comfortable as possible for the person who is in there. And if they want my help they have it and if they don’t, they don’t need me there.
B: That’s how I felt about the store – when we came you were so professional and kind. You have this chi about you – you’re here to support me. You were encouraging and giving suggestions and it was really helpful.
J: I always feel out the person. I really dislike when I feel like I’m being pushed with something that's not for me, and that’s what I try to be the most mindful about. That’s why there’s so much space and there’s a bell if you want to ring it [in the dressing room].
B: Why did you decide to open up a lingerie boutique, or what pointed you in that direction?
J: In a weird way, it just happened. Like when you ask your married friends “How do you know?” and you’re like “you just know!” That’s so annoying, I know. *Laughs* I did the business plan for a project and we needed to do an international component so I was like “Okay, what do I know? I know Colombia and they have a great textile industry,” so I did that.
B: That’s very strategic.
J: Ya and I thought it would be an easy business plan and instead it took me forever to do it and I was just pulling the all-nighters – everything I was trying to avoid by doing a business plan for this store! *Laughs* Then when we moved here it stayed in the back of my mind. The mature thing to do would have been to get a job that pays me money while we’re starting out, but it just stayed in the back of my mind when we were doing the whole move to LA, so I was like I have to do it.
B: So when he got the job in LA, were you just like “This is what I’m going to do!"?
J: Initially I thought, let me work for a couple of years and then I’ll do this. And then there was also the “If I work for a couple years, I’ll get comfortable and I’ll never do it.” So I just kind of threw myself at it and Joe [her husband] was really supportive so that helped a lot. I keep going because of the one-on-one that I can only get through this store: with the customer, which is great, and there are the people that you meet that own the brands. They are ridiculous… so talented and so driven.
B: You get to be in that creative world with them.
J: For example that crocheted top *points to swimsuit* it’s a brand called Entreaguas. The founder hires women who are coming out of the jail system so they have something in their résumé that’s recent. It’s a 26 year-old girl and she started it when she was 22 or 23 and still in school. So you get that from a lot of the brands here: they all have that one passion. They’re really supportive of a cause.
B: I notice that you also have 31 Bits, and that’s a cause driven brand.
J: All the brands here I know through family or friends or just through being Colombian, and other brands you have to do research on, but they all have something. Some sort of cause that they’re supporting.
B: Oh I love that even more. So walk me through the search…what was the first thing that you did after you decided to open the store?
J: I was looking from Santa Monica to Los Feliz and everything in between! First of all, I didn’t know LA so I did a lot of driving and getting out and walking through the streets and getting a feel for people. I knew the kind of neighborhood I needed to be in. I tried getting a real estate agent but no one was willing to work within the square footage I needed because I needed too small of a space. So then I just drove around and found for-lease signs -- it took me like three months the first time around to find a place. Everyday. Just driving and looking.
B: It’s almost like apartment hunting!
J: Yes! I need to make sure the neighbors are not horrible *laughs* and in a good area and you want an area that’s like, up and coming enough. It wouldn’t make sense, something that’s too established. If people are walking from the very well-known stores to the little boutique it wouldn't make sense…it needs to be around people who are interested in something unique and that usually won’t happen in the very established areas.
B: How was the launch party for your second store?
J: That party was really nice. Before I moved out of Sunset I had a little party with 30 of the regular customers…and nothing can beat that. It was so nice. [Lencería has been open for three years now] Then I had the launch party here and there were so many more people who came, so that was really neat. I was also serving ---do you know Aguardiente? It’s a Columbian drink...probably 60% alcohol.
B: *Laughing* so you don’t really remember that opening night…
J: Well I don’t think anyone did! It was the clean up process that was an issue.
B: So you mentioned that you loved being able to work one on one with guests and with the designers – if you had to put your finger on the one thing you love what would it be?
J: It would be that, I know it would. You do need that deep conversation with someone, to learn from other people, and that’s where I get it. I don’t have immediate colleagues; my colleagues are the designers and the people that are selling the brands.
B: That’s not something you see everyday and it's great that you have the opportunity to do that and feel the way you do.
J: Right, I’ve always known I liked customer service but learning that it could be something that you could have a career out of was crazy. When I was little I would ask my mom “What am I good at?” Everyone has a talent that their parents can pinpoint and mine was like “You’re really nice!” *laughs* Mom! She’s like, “You’re really good with people!” and I was thinking, “That’s not a talent!”
B: You know what, you’ve driven in LA—it’s a talent, believe me!
J: I guess what makes me really happy is that you can have a career out of just being nice!
B: So what does a day look like for you? When does it start and end?
J: A lot of my calls are to Columbia or the East Coast so I’m usually up at like 6:30AM on Skype doing the calls. I get here between 11 and 12 and then do what you would see every store owner do, which is the normal clean up and everything. I spend the rest of the day seeing customers, doing our social media, learning about new brands. Just kind of figuring out the rest of the seasons. I guess it depends if it’s buying season, then I’m on Excel trying to figure out the next six months' buys and shipments and trends. I pay less attentions to the trends that I see in a magazine than looking back to see what people bought. I chit chat a lot in the fitting room and see “Oh this person prefers this type of bra,” and I have all those notes to remind myself to buy what people are actually looking for. “Do they prefer underwire or no?”
B: So you’re like the little spy!
J: And its really neat to know the designers, that’s what’s great about working with smaller brands… I can tell them people really want the straps to criss-cross. And then they come out with straps that criss-cross!
[THE BELOW PHOTOS WERE TAKEN AT THE MELROSE LOCATION HOLIDAY PARTY]
B: Is there something that you’re working on right now?
J: Christmas and shopping season is coming up and then Valentine’s. So I’ve finished buying all the lingerie that will come in through February. Every year I’ve had a charity that I focus on, so this December we’re working together on educating people on the charity. So it’s not just like, “Here’s some cash!” I work with the charity to see if they can come to the holiday party and will meet people so they see where their money is going.
B: What do you think is LA’s best feature?
J: You know I think I came in with not a positive image of it. And I was proven wrong so quickly. You just come in thinking everyone will be superficial and nice…but superficial. Then immediately you meet some of the smartest people you’ve ever met. But they enjoy their time off. So it’s the best combination between Miami and NY: where you have the smartest and brightest who work their butts off, but then you have the Miami where it’s like, "When I got to the beach, I go to relax -- I don’t go to do work." And that's a great mix.
You can also never pinpoint the style of LA…anywhere else I’ve been I think people have a specific style. And LA doesn’t have that, and that’s so fantastic. And the food here is ridiculous. It’s better than anywhere I’ve lived. Even though I’ve traveled so much, people here do it right and it’s easy to be healthy. LA also embraces individuality. People get excited about brands they’ve never heard of, whereas in other places you have to prove what it’s worth.
I think LA just kind of sees it, likes it, and goes for it.
B: Would you say you have a secret spot in the city?
J: It always changes. Right now I really love Euro Caffé. I was walking on Beverly and ran into this little café that’s just right out of Italy. It has two Italian guys talking outside about the neighborhood, and people come in and high five each other. It’s crazy. It’s like you’re in Italy. They have the best chocolate croissants because they’re made with Nutella. Its probably good you haven’t found this place because I have to have one or two croissants a week!
B: I'm really excited to check out that spot! So what was the day that you knew you were an Angeleno?
J: I went to NY with my husband for a wedding and while I was there, I went a little crazy. I needed to move back. I couldn’t handle living in LA. I missed my friends…I missed NY. Finally we got home and he was like “Let’s start setting up so we can go back to NY. We’ve been here for a while and it's been for me so we can start moving back and do it for you.” But immediately I was like, “Oh my goodness I’m going to miss my friends! What am I going to do without the weather?!” So I realized that if I didn’t have it [LA] I would really miss it. Then I realized okay, I can do this. I can sign up and be here. And who knows we’ll maybe move but while I’m here, I’m here.
Lencería Boutique is located at 7619 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046.