Although it has only been three short weeks since owner and Concord native Hilary Marino opened the doors to her Coolidge Corner boutique, Her Closet Boston (HCB), the new storefront has already seen immediate success.
On Sept. 2, Marino expanded her online boutique to a 500-square foot location at 234 Harvard St. in Brookline. Embellished with the latest trends in clothing and accessories, it is no surprise that the popularity of HCB’s digital store was transitioned to its new storefront.
“I was that little girl who always loved shopping,” Marino said on her passion for style and love of fashion. “I was only seven years old when my mom had to practically cut me off.”
Although Marino only recently opened her boutique and founded her online store in 2012, she has a long history of finding a balance between work and her draw to fashion. At just 25 years old, Marino left her full-time position as a merchandise planner for Macy’s in New York to become a small business owner.
Click through the gallery for a look at HCB’s selection:
“For me this all just happened kind of naturally—I have always been doing things like this,” Marino said. “Between countless lemonade stands and trying to sell my crafts to parents and neighbors, it has just always been in my blood to do something entrepreneurial, and with all of my attempts related to fashion, something like this just seems to follow the trend.”
With the help of her father, Marino set up her first eBay account at age 13 to sell small items like Beanie Babies and personalized address labels that she would design and print. Throughout high school she quickly transitioned from smaller items to selling wholesale jewelry that she bought online, and eventually in college began to sell jewelry that she made on Etsy.
After graduating from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania with a degree in Finance and minors in both Entrepreneurship and Psychology, Marino took the position at Macy’s. “It was a very numbers-oriented role, but I would still be able to work with the buyer some,” she said. “It was my responsibility to see how much of things to bring in, how to spread it out over the coming months, and to make sure we were on track with our margin.”
“I liked it but it was too ‘numbers’ for me, and I missed being able to use my creative side,” Marino said regarding her position as merchandise planner. “Even though it was a really great company and I loved everyone that I worked with, I just didn’t feel happy—deep down it didn’t feel right.”
After three years, Marino left her full time job to move back home with her parents and figure out what her next step would be. While considering either another corporate job or taking some time off to travel, Marino stumbled upon one of the wholesale websites she used to supply her eBay account with and began to think about what would become HCB.
“I started HCB on a whim,” she said. “The website was even better than I imagined—better clothes, better prices—so of course my entrepreneurial side was itching and I just had to try it out again.”
Marino began HCB with an inventory of six items and from there began to reinvest the money she made into more styles. “From there it just really snowballed,” she said. “I had customers asking for more of the pieces because they liked my style.”
Six items turned into an entire online boutique as Marino moved off of eBay and created her standalone website, shophcb.com, in September of 2012. Highlights in multiple, prominent online blogs quickly led to digital success for Marino and by that holiday season she began to consider the possibility of not needing to look for another job.
Despite online success, Marino always kept the idea of a storefront in the back of her mind. “I wanted a store because I have always liked the idea of interacting with people and merchandising,” she said. “Even though in today’s world everything seems to be going digital, there is something so personal about clothes and shopping at a store where you can touch and feel everything,”
After running the website for one year, she moved to Washington Square in the summer of 2013. Although taken with the area, Marino noticed it was missing an affordable market that HCB could fill. “There are so many things here but nothing in the price range that HCB is working with, so I decided that it was a perfect fit—and after looking for spaces, here we are,” she said.
Although the adjustment to a storefront was exciting, Marino has had to take on some new responsibilities that her online boutique did not account for. Now, on top of keeping up with the latest trends and finding them at affordable prices, she manages five part-time employees as well as the finances of her metropolitan location.
“When I started HCB I had a young city girl in mind—she was a young professional, and she was working hard but also wanted to have fun and she needed a wardrobe to reflect that but didn’t want to spend her whole paycheck to look cute,” Marino said. “But since I have opened the store I see that the HCB girl can be anyone. We get customers ranging from high school and college students all the way up to young moms and even cute, hip grandmothers. There is really something for everyone in a lot of ways.”
Coolidge Corner and Washington Square have already shown a positive response to HCB, with many from the neighborhood telling Marino that they have been waiting for a place like this, she said.
Marino looks excitedly toward the future of the HCB storefront, which not only offers a boutique shopping experience but also personal shopping services, a student discount, and monthly shopping perks.
“I’m really trying to create a place that’s the best of both worlds,” she said. “I want people to come in and be able to have that small boutique experience with great customer service, but not with the prices that usually go along with that experience.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Mike Diskin