A Groovy East Village Boutique in Downtown SD

By 0 No tags Permalink 0

If you didn’t know better, when you walked into G St Gypsy boutique, you might think you were in a store in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during its heyday in the 1960’s. Whether it’s the many re-worked kimono shawls, imported Turkish and Pakistani silver jewelry, yarn-art on the walls, or Hamilton, the Vietnamese pig wandering the store — just because — the vibe of this new East Village clothing store is a throwback to another era but all in a good way.

G St. Gypsy boutique, located in the East Village. Rebekah Sager

Owner of the store, Megan Costa completed a certificate program in design at Mesa College, but never worked in retail. “I felt dead doing other jobs, like waitressing, before opening the store. I knew I always wanted to start this business,” Costa says.

After running her store as a pop-up for a three months last July during the opening week of Comic-Con , Costa says the reaction from customers was so good, she decided to put a business plan together to set up shop in a more permanent brick and mortar style—G St Gypsywas born. Costa says she used her savings of less than $15,000 to get the store going, and it continues to evolve as she makes money. “We add to the decor and get pieces for display, and add new lighting fixtures, but it’s still pretty simple and humble,” Costa says.

G St. Gypsy boutique Rebekah Sager

Much of the merchandise is re-constructed designer vintage clothing, vintage bags and shoes, and a large collection of imported and locally-made jewelry. “We keep our prices really affordable because we don’t spend a lot on rent or other decorations. The display pieces are from castoff wood blocks made by my dad. The art on the walls was given to me by my mom. Retail prices start at $5 and go up to $150, but the higher-end pieces are few and far between. The average dress costs about $40,” Costa says.

The store is situated on G Street in a highly trafficked block, between the restaurants Zanzibar and Neighborhood.

G St. Gypsy boutique Rebekah Sager

“We don’t spend any money on PR or marketing. It’s a kind of guerrilla-style format, using Instagram, both Hamilton the pig’s account (@city pig) and the store’s account (@GSTGypsy). We’re really lucky. People come in all day long to visit the pig and then shop. We cater to many of the local women who work in the neighborhood,” Costa says.

Costa describes the store as eclectic, fun, and free spirited. “It’s boho-aesthetic with great prices and rare finds,” Costa says.

G St. Gypsy boutique Rebekah Sager


Where: 677 7th Ave. San Diego, 92101

Hours: Tue-Sat. 11-8pm and Sunday 12-5pm

Phone: (619) 501-5611

Website: www.gstgypsy.com

Amba Boutique in Del Mar: Garments Off the Grid

By 0 No tags Permalink 0

Owner of Amba boutique and gallery, Nirmala Jagannath, opened her first store 10 years ago after her job as head of the Scripps La Jolla out-patient mental health clinic abruptly ended. She says she was so depressed leaving her patients scattered to various locations in the city that she decided to travel to Hyderabad to visit her mother for comfort. It was in Hyderabad that she found what would be the merchandise for her first store in Solana Beach.

Amba boutique and gallery. — Rebekah Sager

“Every few kilometers you travel to and in every village, there’s a variety of crafts made a unique way for thousands of years that have persisted. But modernization is leaving hand-made craft-making forgotten,” Jagannath says.

Amba boutique and gallery

Today, Jagannath’s store is in a new location along Cedros, and though it’s somewhat tucked away, it’s no longer a secret to lovers of hand-crafted home goods or traditional-made Indian clothing.

Many of the items in Amba are created by using re-claimed saris—something Jagannath says is fairly common. Jagannath also designs many of the pieces in the store. She says is she loves design because at its essence, it’s about solving problems. “In fact, everything in the store attempts to solve a human problem. I bridge the relationship gap between women who make beautiful things, and women who appreciate and want to have beautifully made things. It’s a matter solving a social need,” Jagannath says.

Amba boutique and gallery

By traveling to India to work with rural and urban artisans and pay them a fair wage to create merchandise for the store, Amba is essentially reinvesting in projects that conserve and develop the skills and lives of craftspeople in India. Jagannath says she’s providing sustainable work and keeping much of the traditional handiwork alive.

Items at Amba range from $50 to $500. Everything in the store is one-of-a-kind, commissioned exclusively for Amba. The artisans in India are paid a salary year-round. All of the profit (after overhead which included Jagannath’s small salary) is returned to the artisans in India.

One of Amba’s most beautiful items are the dresses made from Khadi—a fabric made famous by Mahatma Gandhi when he encouraged Indians to weave and wear it during his movement to revive rural self-employment and India’s independence. Khadi is a cloth made from homespun thread, made by hand on a spinning wheel, and then hand-woven on a simple treadle loom.

AMBA boutique and gallery.

Additionally, the store offers silk and organic cotton blended and hand-painted tops, bed-covers made from re-claimed saris in Bangladesh, vintage shawls, and metal block printed and hand tie-dyed scarves.

“I believe in making a profit, but also supporting a bigger social cause. It’s my business model. There’s no middle-person. I’m it. I relate directly with the artists and the consumer,” Jagannath says.

AMBA owner, Nirmala Jagannath.


143 South Cedros, Solana Beach



Hours: Open Tues-Sat 11-6pm, Sunday 11-5pm, Closed Mondays

Passione Boutique brings Italian style to La Jolla

By 0 No tags Permalink 0

When Rita Di Stefano moved from Rome to San Diego eight years ago, she never imagined she would ditch her geology degree and open a clothing boutique in La Jolla. But when she did, she’d name it Passione, because fashion had always been — well — her passion.

Di Stefano says she chose La Jolla because it reminded her of Europe, specifically the little village where she spent her summers growing up in Forio on the island of Ischia.


Being a boutique owner stationed in some of the most high-priced real estate in the country while still having affordably priced clothing isn’t easy, but Di Stefano manages to do just that with Passione. “All the clothing comes from Rome, and I make sure to shop smartly, get a few good deals with my Italian connections, and choose affordable, but quality things. I look for unique lines who’re excited to have exposure in the U.S.,” says Di Stefano, who has been in business for five years.

Di Stefano doesn’t have any retail experience, other than once working as a salesgirl at another La Jolla boutique. But she loves fashion so much that she used what money she had in her savings to open Passione.


The store is located in the Fay Center — essentially down a small walkway, nestled next door to the Empress Hotel, along with about 17 other small businesses lining it. Each one is about the same square footage as Passione — 175 to 200 square feet.

“It helps me that I’m not directly on the street, it keeps my rent low. But business is tough and the economy has been a challenge. But I’m making it,” Di Stefano says.


Passion boutique sets itself apart by carrying exclusively Italian lines not available in other stores in the U.S. Prices range from $100 for a dress to almost $300. She always keeps a sale rack with clothing prices as low as $50.

Passione’s racks are awash in color right now, filled with large prints and vibrant yellows, pinks, and reds. Di Stefano seems more aware of silhouette and fabric weight, than plunging necklines and tight fits. From the handbags, to the belts, dresses, tops, and jumpsuits, the store offers bold and flattering styles for all body types.

“Italy is the heart of fashion. Italian women want to look unique. They’re a bit obsessed with looking ‘pulled together’ all day, every day. Their look is a classic, sexy, feminine style, and I think my customers can find that here at my store. The clothing we carry is usually a bit ahead of the game, as Italy is pretty forward thinking in fashion. We have a lot of returning customers both locally, and tourists,” Di Stefano says.

7760 Fay Ave., Ste D

La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 349-592

Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:30 – 5:30

By appointment as well.

Navy Veteran Found His Tie to Tailoring

By 0 No tags Permalink 0

Navy veteran and custom bow tie and necktie designer Immanuel Ontiveros is on a mission.

His passion is to convert the men of San Diego from casually dressed to upscale gentlemen with swagger — and, of course, that includes everyday neckwear.

The Sonora, Calif.-born Ontiveros ended up in San Diego after five years in the Navy, training to be a military police officer, and possibly someday a California Highway patrolman. Ontiveros says he realized he only wanted to be the “good cop” in the good-cop-versus-bad-cop scenario, and that 90 percent of the job wasn’t going to be as action-packed as he’d hoped.

So, he went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in leadership from National University.


Until about a week ago, Ontiveros was working at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, helping vets with their benefits. But he recently gave his two-week notice to pursue his tailoring and designing passions — as encouraged by his wife, Anda, an attorney by trade who now works for a local tech company.

“I’ve always been a creative person. I expressed it through a love of fashion,” Ontiveros, 28, says. “Constantly reviewing men’s magazines, I noticed the U.S. was behind Europe, and the East Coast was ahead of the West — and many of the guys were wearing bow ties. Thinking I was going to be original, I went out and bought myself one. Within a day, I ran into a friend with the exact same tie on.”

So, what does an enterprising Navy vet do? He goes out and buys a sewing machine to start making his own ties. One minor problem: He doesn’t know how to use it.

“I went next door to my neighbor, thinking she was a girl, she must know how to use a sewing machine. Right? She did. But she didn’t know how to make ties. I started with some fabric from an old pair of pants.”

Today, Ontiveros has designing and sewing ties down to a science. He’s often stopped on the street and asked about his ties.

His line is called Lord Wallington, named after his dog, Wally, a local rescue mutt. Locally, Ontiveros sells in boutiques like Crow Thief in South Park, Simply Local in the Headquarters space in downtown and Lone Flag in Del Mar.

He creates small quantities of custom and virtually one-of-a-kind ties, ranging in price from $45 to $125. He buys fabric anywhere he finds it, and it’s usually not more than maybe half a yard. So, once he uses it, it’s never to be repeated. He says that exclusivity is the goal.

In addition to developing Lord Wallington, Ontiveros is being trained by Joseph Cortese, the owner of Joseph’s Menswear and Custom Tailoring shop, as an “apprentice tailor in training.”

Ontiveros admits that wearing a bow tie is a hard stylish push for most men, not to mention men in Southern California. Ontiveros says he’s helping men discover what he calls being “appropriately overdressed.”

The designer says bow ties are not a necessity but an accessory that adds to a man’s overall look.

Cecelia Church, owner of the Little Italy boutique Vocabulary, says of Ontiveros’ ties: “They’re not too fashion-forward, but if a guy wears one, he’s definitely going to look like he has style. They’re reasonably priced. We love them.”