By Emily Glory Peters
When was the last time you walked into an indie shop for an item of clothing? Bessy Centeno wants to know—because for her, your choice to shop local holds the power to change lives.
“Growing up in Honduras, I got involved in fashion as a means of survival,” says Centeno. Work was difficult to find, and eventually, she came to the United States to pursue a bigger dream of self-employment. She worked in showrooms and as a sewer for Guess, slowly saving up enough to buy wholesale items to sell from her car. That grit paid when she opened her own clothing store in 2001.
“The name ‘Bessy’s Boutique’ came from wanting to brand my hard work,” she says. “It’s a reminder that I finally made my biggest dream into reality.”
Now operating Bessy’s Boutique alongside her two daughters, Centeno emphasizes comfort and style with the pieces she chooses—and in the atmosphere she creates for her shoppers.
“When you walk into our boutique, you can feel the warmth and love we put into everything here. From decoration to music we’ve created a safe haven where you don’t feel pressured or uncomfortable,” she explains. Here people come to escape the daily grind, relax, and chat—“something that now in 2019 that is hard to experience.” Plus, they’ll likely leave with something beautiful inspired by the season.
“With it being summer, we love a good floral dress; a simple statement item which you can dress up or down with jewelry, handbags, accessories, shoes—we offer it all,” says Centeno. The shop is large, bright, and overflowing with juicy colors and beautiful textures of items she hand-selects from LA’s showrooms, where she can touch and see the items up close. It makes a huge difference.
“Sourcing from local showrooms ensures that all the items being brought to the store are of high quality and won’t break the moment you put them on. It also makes sure that everything sells instead of sitting in the store,” she explains. “We like to have new, eye-catching items for our customers every week.”
Regular clients have developed over time—and as critical their loyalty is to her business, Centeno’s heart for her fellow Hondurans back home is just as strong.
“Every year we send over boxes full of new and used items in good condition to help people in the village I came from—my sister and son still live there and help distribute all the items,” she says, “and every Christmas, we make food baskets that go to families that need the most help. Starting a non-profit organization is one of our many goals, and little by little we will make it reality.”
Such big goals emphasize the impact small business can have beyond its own borders. From the trunk of her car to the cozy interior of her own storefront, Centeno wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My work is inspiring because I take pride and love everything I do. I’ve worked hard to make this reality and I don’t want to stop,” she says. “My mistakes have taught me to always push forward and not quit…I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.”
Bessy’s Boutique is located at 1353 N. Lake Avenue in Pasadena. To learn more, contact Bessy Centeno at email@example.com | 323.445-8997 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @bessysboutique.