27 January, 2015

Fashion is good for the soul:



We're so grateful to the Prescott Daily Courier, and everyone who contributed to this great write-up on HOP SING published earlier this week.  So fun!  THANK YOU! 

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Text: Arlene Hittle, Prescott Daily Courier
Photo: Lee Stukenberg, Prescott Daily Courier

If laughter is good for the soul, Lauren Woltman may well have the healthiest soul in town.

Woltman, who owns Hop Sing Trading Co. with her husband Jeff, has a ready smile and is quick with a joke.

After 33 years in Kauai, Hawaii, and more than 20 years in retail, she moved to Prescott in 2009 to be closer to her parents, relocating her shop to the Bashford Court Mall downtown.

"We just passed our five-year mark in November," she said.

Much like its owner, Hop Sing has a fun, funky vibe. Brightly colored knit sweaters hang with denim jackets, jeans and bold graphic T-shirts. Unique shoes and boots sit next to hand-knit hats and scarves. Chunky jewelry, luxe nail and lip colors, slouchy purses and bath bombs in delicious scents complete the collection.

Above all, the atmosphere is inviting.

"This definitely is not a snobby boutique," employee Andrea Hamby said. She hasn't worked with Woltman long, but they shared an instant connection since they both had lived in Hawaii.

Woltman loves working retail.

"I kind of eat, sleep and breathe fashion," she said.

But she's not talking the runway styles many people think of when they hear the world "fashion."

"My perspective is far more casual," said Woltman, who writes a fashion column for The Daily Courier's entertainment section, Kudos, and blogs at hopsingtradingco.blogspot.com. She's also active on Instagram and Twitter (@hopsingtrading). 

The daughter of a professional surfer, she grew up in Pacific Beach, California, surrounded by other famous surfers and their friends, who came from as far away as Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

"What I remember most is that these well-traveled bohemians felt completely free to express themselves, both fashionably and otherwise," she writes on the blog. "My fashion foundation was laid with the bold fashion statements and glowing tans of surf gods and their goddesses."

Her favorite part of retail work: physically transforming women.

"I love my customers, and I love helping them decorate themselves," she said. "We're always looking for ways to help a woman feel more confident."

Among the ways Woltman gives her customers that shot of confidence?

"As I get older, I've become a lot more fearless in what I wear," she said. "It's always fun for me to teach the ladies to play a little bit."

Whether that's pairing a lace skirt with a graphic T and hand-knit sweater or putting two seemingly clashing prints together, the results nudge customers to go home and look at their closet differently.

"She really puts together pieces that you wouldn't think would work," Hamby said. "She has magic like that."

The formula for success, Woltman said, lies in knowing how to dress pieces up or down. Depending on the top it's paired with, one skirt can be equally at home at church or at the grocery store.

Hop Sing customer Mandy Moreau, who lives in Prescott Valley, agrees. 

"My husband knows I like her store and goes in and asks Lauren to help him pick out clothes or gifts. She has never once steered him wrong (even down to getting the right sizing when I'm not there to try stuff on)," she said via email.

"She takes time to get to know her customers - their likes and dislikes, personal style, what makes them comfortable and confident and, perhaps more important, what makes them uncomfortable," Moreau said. "The quality of her items are top-notch, and she takes pride in what she sells, where the products come from and who makes them."

Quality definitely matters for Woltman, who said 50 percent or more of her store's merchandise is sourced in the United States.

"Quality is paramount in my world," she said. That goes for both the clothes she wears and the food she eats. "I'd rather have a lot less, but a whole lot better."

That's the common thread she plans to weave through her life in 2015: Work less, work better. Buy less, buy better.

Hop Sing's prices range anywhere from $5 to $400.

For women who might be thinking twice - or three times - about wearing a pricy $200 sweater to the grocery store, she has one word of advice: Don't.

"Your life is only this long," Woltman said, holding up her hands about a foot apart. "You want to celebrate it every day."

Family is among the things Woltman celebrates every day. Her daughter and three grandchildren live in San Luis Obispo, on California's central coast, which gives her the opportunity to go to the beach on vacation. She relishes the chance to return to the sand, surf and sunsets.

"It's such a refreshment to get back to it," she said.

Woltman gets a lot of support from her friends, family and husband, Jeff. 

"He's the second half of mom and pop," she said.

They've been married for 14 years, after meeting in Hawaii. Her third husband, Jeff is proof that when you stop looking, "in walks the love of your life."

"I get to spend every day with my best friend," she said.

She makes a point of reflecting on and vocalizing appreciation for who she has in her life, what she has, and her customer base.

"Without them, I couldn't do this," Woltman said.

Her customers feel the same way about her.

"Hop Sing combines the best of small-town friendliness with international style," regular Gudrun Miller said via email. "Lauren, Jeff and the staff have become friends and I go to the store just to visit."

Miller continued: "Lauren has a knack for putting pieces together and coming up with amazing outfits. She specializes in helping women of all ages and sizes feel good about how they look."

The boutique carries a tote bag that does a fair job of summing up Woltman's philosophy. Emblazoned with a motorcycle-riding woman, it bears a quote from Glinda, the Good Witch: "You had the power all along, my dear."

She introduces women to new ways to get dressed, encouraging them put together the basics in a not-so-basic way.

"If you look good, it makes you feel good," Woltman said.

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