In a time of online shopping and fast fashion, there’s something Pam Santorelli, owner of local fashion boutique Habit, thinks modern shoppers are missing: the art of browsing.
“A lot of people still enjoy coming to boutiques because it’s a different feel than just ordering online,” Santorelli said. “You’re trying things on, you’re in a neighborhood and just shopping with your girlfriends on a Saturday. We think it’s the full experience that people still want to get.”
This holiday season, Boston.com put the spotlight on small businesses like Habit by having our readers share their favorite places to shop locally in Greater Boston. Several readers named the South Boston store as one of the best boutiques in the city.
“Habit has the best clothes and accessories. It’s my go-to store when I need an outfit for work or for play. I have never left the store empty-handed,” Sonia from Woburn said. “A must-shop for any fashionista!”
Habit, located at 703 East Broadway in South Boston, first opened its doors in 2006, but the dream of a boutique had been with Santorelli for much longer. She grew up with a love for fashion and considered pursuing a career in fashion design, but found her footing in merchandising. After working in retail in high school, she discovered she had a passion for business and customer service.
“[I love] helping people and being creative. I love merchandising the store and making it look good visually,” Santorelli told Boston.com. “I still, after all these years, love the experience of boutique shopping, when people come in and leave happy.”
At the store, you’ll find women’s clothing, accessories, and gifts. New items are regularly added to the inventory, according to the owner, and are rotated seasonally. From now until February, you’ll find winter essentials like sweaters, jackets, scarves, and holiday gift items. Santorelli selects items that will appeal to current trends without sacrificing classic style.
“We like something with a little bit of a twist but we have a variety of clothing so if you want something more traditional, we have it. If we want something that’s trendy, we have it,” she said. “We cater to all different kinds of groups of people.”
Just as important as finding items to suit personal flair, is ensuring that they’re good quality.
“We keep our price points decently priced but I’m definitely a big advocate of quality pieces,” she said. “It has to feel good and feel good on.”
One of the perks of the in-person boutique experience is that customers get the benefit of having experienced retailers give them honest fashion advice. Readers said Santorelli and her employees are not only approachable but knowledgeable about all the items in the store.
“Owner and staff are extremely helpful and friendly. Strong commitment to the community. Beautiful products at a reasonable price,” Gina N. from Woburn shared. “When you walk in, you feel at home. Highly recommend!”
If you can’t make it to their brick-and-mortar location, Habit also has an online store and an Instagram page, where you can shop the full collection. Janine G. from Woburn said Habit is a “must to check out, whether it be in person or online.”
“Guaranteed you will love to shop here and feel great about supporting local vendors,” she said.
One of the reasons Santorelli encourages shoppers to come by the store in person is that they get the benefit of spending time in South Boston. When the boutique first opened, South Boston wasn’t yet the trendy neighborhood it is today, and Santorelli said she’s been proud to watch the evolution of a part of the city she’s always loved.
“South Boston was still growing at that point. I lived in South Boston, and I fell in love with it the minute I moved here but there wasn’t much for stores,” she said. “I looked around and said well you know what, there’s a lot of young professionals in the neighborhood that are probably looking for a place to shop and it’s right here.”
As the neighborhood has developed, Santorelli said she’s very grateful for the community of entrepreneurs. She will often direct her customers to other small businesses in the area and knows others do the same.
“South Boston itself has become a great destination. If we don’t have it someone else will and then if they don’t have it, they’ll send people down here which is great,” she said. “We’ve been very lucky. “
That readers appreciate the boutique enough to recommend it to loved ones and strangers alike is a testament to the kind of neighborhood shop Santorelli said she and her staff work to create.
“I just take pride in having our store be a comfortable, easy atmosphere that people can come in and know that whether they buy something or not, they’ll enjoy the experience.”
This store is one of the dozens of local businesses recommended by readers as among the best in the Greater Boston area. See Boston.com’s continuously updated list of local businesses and nominate your own here. Find the businesses listed in the interactive map below.