By Ginger DeShaney
When Pam Santorelli opened her boutique Habit at 703 E. Broadway almost 15 years ago, she received amazing support from the neighborhood.
“There was a lot of positive energy. We had a successful opening,” Pam said. “We got such a great response from the neighborhood. It pushed us to move forward.”
That support remains strong today. When COVID-19 forced Habit, a women’s clothing, accessories, and gift boutique, to close its doors for two and half months, right at the start of the busy season, the tight-knit Southie community was there for Pam.
“We’re hanging in there,” she said. “We had a great response from the neighborhood. People want to shop small, which is so appreciated.”
Christmas sales were good, again thanks to the supportive community. “It was a good holiday season,” Pam said. “We had a lot of support. People came out and shopped local. Overall, I can’t thank people enough for coming out and shopping with us.
“I want to thank the neighborhood for its support. Thanks to everyone who shopped small.
“I look forward to a great 2021.”
Because Habit is a Southie institution, Pam has amassed a great base of regulars. She has gotten to know people over the years. “I love seeing their lives evolve; I grow with them,” she said. “I’ve been here so long that I’ve become friends with my customers.
“It’s nice to get to know people year over year.”
What Pam also knows is fashion. In the era of COVID-19, what’s popular at Habit?
“Anything cozy and comfy,” she said.
With people working from home during the pandemic, women are buying “Zoom meeting tops and accessories.”
Cute loungewear, cozy sweaters, and casual joggers are also popular right now.
“Fashion is getting more comfortable,” Pam said. “People want to look casual but cute and stylish.”
Pam figures people will be excited to get dressed up again once it’s OK. But in day-to-day business, dressing up may not happen as much as before. Companies are changing focus from dressing up to casual wear now.
Pam, who has lived in Southie for 22 years, has seen all the changes here: “There’s a lot of energy in the neighborhood.”
Habit keeps up with all the trends. “We always stand behind good quality products at good prices,” said Pam.
Gift items — such as candles, engagement gifts (champagne glasses, ring trays), Southie coasters, wine glasses, frames, jewelry, and scarves — continue to be popular at Habit. “The price points are really great; there’s something for everyone,” Pam said.
Pam, who also owned Wears + Wares for five years, has been instrumental in the pop-up community in Southie. “They bring the neighborhood together. It gives people in South Boston and the surrounding areas the opportunity to shop a bunch of different designers and boutiques at the same time,” she said. It also allows for artists and makers without brick and mortar stores to showcase their items.
Pam had always dreamed of opening a boutique. “Since I was little, I knew I wanted to be involved in the fashion world.
“I loved playing boutique and shopping with my mom,” she added, noting that when she was young, her fashionable parents were always great dressers.
Pam graduated from Chamberlayne School of Design and Merchandising with a fashion merchandising and marketing degree. “I never wanted to be a fashion designer,” she said, “but I like dressing up; I like clothes, jewelry, and accessories.”
Her stints at Louis Boston and as a consultant for then-upstart Persona Jewelry helped set her up for opening her own shop. She learned about buying, sales, design, fabrics, customer service, and more.
“I learned the ins and outs of opening a boutique,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
But going out on her own was a new experience: “You don’t know the day-to-day until you live it. Every day is a new day. I’m still learning.”