Living in El Dorado Hills, Robin Bernardoni saw an opportunity for a unique specialized women’s clothing store in the area. “Most of the women’s clothing was sold through chains or department stores, and people were driving to San Francisco for prom dresses,” she said.
Robin’s desire to open a women’s clothing boutique dovetailed nicely with desires of many local residents who were looking for cool local places to shop.
In February 2009 she opened Runway Boutique in the Montaño de El Dorado shopping center. The 1,800 square-foot store is located at the corner of Latrobe and White Rock roads in El Dorado Hills.
With the success of Runway Boutique, Robin said she sensed a demand for a unique women’s clothing store in Folsom.
Her second store, Button UP, opened this February in the Palladio shopping center in Folsom. Slightly larger, at 2,000 square feet, Button UP is located at 330 Palladio Parkway, Suite 2017. “I chose this location because it is on what will be the main street in Palladio, and other women’s clothing stores will be opening nearby,” said Robin. “I love the ambience at Palladio. It flows nicely and there is a big square.”
On Saturday, March 3, Button UP will have a Grand Opening from noon to 7 p.m.
The concept for the stores is not like any other. There are a wide range of prices, sizes and styles. These clothes are fashionable for all ages. “Mothers, daughters and grandmothers can wear these styles and look great,” said Robin.
As if on cue, Robin’s mother, Rita Carls, entered Button UP to make a delivery from Runway Boutique and looked smart in an ensemble from the store.
New clothes arrive daily. “We are transitioning into spring,” said Robin. Some of the features in spring fashions are the Cold Shoulder, leaving the shoulder bare between the top and the middle of the upper arm; the Hi-Lo, hems that lengthen the look of the leg with the back being longer than the front; and the Knot, an updated, more sophisticated version of a retro style with a knot tied at the bottom of a blouse or top.
Prices range from $32 to $200 for tops, skirts, dresses and denims. The selections are from the best lines in the country: Fresh Laundry, Michael Starr, Free People, Tolani, Bailly 44, Fifteen Twenty and Single. A mother-daughter team in Folsom supplies handbags, tops and dresses under the label Me & d. Robin herself designs shirts and sells them as RB Couture.
Denims are selected to fit different body types. “When a woman gets a pair of jeans that fit right, you can see it in her face. It’s exciting,” said Robin. Denim lines are Level 99, AG, Big Star, Rock Revival, Hudson and Paige.
Jewelry, belts and other accessories add to the fashion.
Robin said she opened her stores in February to coincide with the beginning of prom season, which runs from early February to mid-May. The first year at Runway she sold 60 prom dresses, the next year 120, the following year 400.
In August of each year Robin and her daughter Andi, now 18 and a student at UCLA, go to Atlanta to select the dresses. “We have the top lines — Jovani, Tony Bowls, Alyce. At the Atlanta show we can see the dresses on live models instead of on hangers. It makes selections much better.”
Some stores charge to try on prom dresses, said Robin. “All we ask for is an e-mail address. We do require appointments.”
Robin also carries some adult gowns year-round for black-tie affairs and special events.
She said she has always loved working with women. She started as a licensed marriage child family counselor in the Bay Area. She and her husband Peter moved to El Dorado Hills in 2000. Peter opened a local office of WavePoint, a venture capital firm headquartered in Menlo Park that concentrates on the northern California area. Robin focused on becoming familiar with the community and raising Andi and son Nick, 16, now at Oak Ridge High School.
When she decided to open Runway Boutique, and again with Button UP, it was with the support of her family — her husband, mother and children. Andi worked at Runway for three years while in high school. Nick is the IT guy. He set up and maintains the servers at both stores.
Lindsay Moore is part of the store family, as manager of both stores. Lindsay graduated from Oak Ridge in 2005, and left home to study sociology and interior design at Arizona State University. When she returned in 2010 she heard about Runway and was hired as a salesperson. “The visual training I learned in interior design transfers to clothing,” said Lindsay. “And providing customer service is great.”
When Robin was thinking about another way of helping women besides a counseling practice she looked at her lifelong interest in fashion. “I have always kept up with fashion trends and brands as a hobby,” she said.
Not knowing the business, she attended fashion markets all over the United States. She consulted with boutique owners and representatives from leading brands in the industry. Being unfamiliar with merchandising — buying, selling, displaying and promoting products, “I hired Terry Wilson to do my merchandising. She’s the best in the business.” She learned pricing by studying the market. “My prices are standard retail or slightly below to be competitive.”
Her stores are designed to be casual and comfortable for the whole family. “Shopping has always relaxed me,” she said. “My satisfaction comes from helping women to leave satisfied. It gives them confidence.”
Button UP is open Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The telephone number is (916) 817-1882.