Walking into Five Figs Couture, located downtown on 231 E St., is an experience quite unlike most other clothing boutiques. The owner, Pam Pacelli is funny, wonderfully frank and charming – in a way that makes her simultaneously radiant and fashionably erudite.
But as this week comes to a close, Five Figs Couture will be closing as well.
“I’m done – at least for now. I’ve been running this for six years, and it’s very taxing,” Pacelli said. “Some things are hard in life, and this is just one of them.”
Pacelli started her business in 2004, after completing her undergraduate degree in economics at University of California, Los Angeles and receiving a certification in image consulting.
As with any other business, she said starting up required a lot of legwork to begin with. Before Five Figs Couture, Pacelli was selling encyclopedias, image consulting at Curves and selling clothes through e-commerce.
As an image consultant, Pacelli worked with women of various body types. She found that there weren’t many options of clothes readily available to women with curves.
“My goal is to help women over 25 who are anywhere from a size 8 to 11 – like a Chico’s store – but with cooler clothes. I began hosting these trunk shows at my house and accumulated a database of clients,” she said. “Then a friend just said to me, ‘Pam, you need to get out of your house.’ And that was that.”
Pacelli found an open space in downtown Davis and moved in immediately.
Though the store is located in an obscure corner, hidden behind Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Pacelli does have her regulars. Her clients range from local professionals to professors, regular moms to new drop-in customers and occasionally, she will have students stopping by.
But of course, one of the major cons for Davis businesses is the limited market, she said.
“My philosophy is keeping it fresh and frequent. The clothes come in small amounts; they’re in, they’re fast and then they’re gone,” Pacelli said. “Because I have a lot of repeat customers, the shipments have to be fresh and hot all the time.”
After all, fashion is always changing. But as heard so often, the economy is tough – which is one of the many reasons that accounts for the closing of Five Figs Couture.
Pacelli, who said that she is constantly questioning the future of small retail, believes there will always be a time and place for clothing boutiques.
“Part of the uniqueness of my store is the experience that my clients get. There is value added by coming in,” she said.
The word “unique” may be a bit of an understatement, however. Pacelli doesn’t operate with fancy machinery or furniture in her store, but the artistic atmosphere may seem overwhelming at a first glance. The architecture is simple and minimalistic – with layered ceilings, a large asymmetrical glass table and local artwork gracing the walls.
Sometimes, customers will walk in to browse the photography on display. With her regular clients, she helps them update their wardrobe. This is done through consistent relationship building and targeted e-mails.
“It takes a very certain type of personality to be a part of this business. If your store is on a heavy-footed street in San Francisco or New York, then you need to know the buzz and be connected with everybody,” she said. “Do your research and know your market.”
In one instance, she gathered an armful of form-fitting clothes for a busy mother with her three-year-old son and insisted that she take them home to try on. This is just one example demonstrating the trust she builds with her clients.
Because she is taking a break from small retail, Pacelli’s future is open with endless possibilities. Hoping to gain more education in the field of business, she is currently in the process of receiving her masters at California State University, Sacramento.
“My economics major was too theoretical, and not practical enough,” Pacelli said. “I wish I was going to Davis for school, but it’s just too expensive right now. And I’m not looking for a job, I just want the education.”
Pacelli will be staying in Davis until June, but this Friday will mark the final day of her clothing store business.
“For now, I have no specific plans. I’m blessed with the opportunity to just go to school and not work right now,” she said. “I hope I can just chill and be calm for a while. But I have a very high sense of energy, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Pacelli’s advice for aspiring students hoping to start their own business is to have a creative vision to make their passions flourish. “It’s hard though, and you won’t always make a lot of money. But if you love it, then stick to it,” Pacelli said.
And what’s her expert advice on fashion and clothes?
“I think that jeans and a tee-shirt are just too safe,” she said. “Know what looks good on you and your shape; there are so many ways to express yourself.”
For more information on Five Figs Couture before it closes, visit fivefigscouture.com.
VANNA LE can be reached at email@example.com.