Droves of serious shoppers are jumping into their cars to go on New Jersey’s finest fashion pilgrimage: not to large shopping malls in towns like Short Hills or Paramus, but to an independent boutique on the main street of Red Bank, New Jersey. “Sixty percent of our business comes from Bergen County, Staten Island, Philadelphia, even New York City,” says Kimberly Landau, the owner and sole buyer of CoCo Parì, who’s quickly becoming a fashion icon for sexy luxury. In the name of style, ladies are spending up to two hours behind the wheel to lunch and shop in the once quiet town, now widely regarded as “the hippest town” in the state.
Landau was just 20 when she opened her first shop of high-end clothing in Deal. Now, nearly a decade later, with a second boutique in Red Bank filled with a hand-selected, highly-edited collection of the season’s most stylish clothing to her credit, she’s standing five inches taller than her natural 5’5″ thanks to her vertiginous Christian Louboutins.”It was more than just creating a store, I feel like I took part in driving the renaissance of a town,” she says. The Latin music pulsing onto Broad Street on Friday and Saturday nights, when CoCo Parì stays open until 11:00pm for shopping, cocktails and fun, certainly has something to do with the town’s extreme makeover into the “Soho of the shore”.In creating this fashion haven, Landau was inspired by the vibe in Miami Beach’s South Beach district, filled with trendy boutiques that feel more like clubs than stores. The clothing she’d find there was feminine, confident and sexy. So were the women who wore it. Seeing no reason why women in New Jersey shouldn’t share in the sexy confidence that VIP treatment and flirty frocks bestow, she decided to bring both the styles and the sense of revelry home with her.CoCo Parì is about letting go and enjoying the experience of being spoiled. “The VIP status is here for the taking,” Kimberly says, confirming that shoppers don’t have to be millionaires to be treated as such. In her store, she says, “You don’t have to search for it; you don’t have to wave down a salesperson. You don’t have to lug bags.” Their highly trained staff act as personal shoppers, there to guide you through the store, explain sizes and styles and maybe encourage you to take a few chances, if only in the dressing room. They’ll find items cut perfectly for you, whether you are size 0 or 12. “This isn’t a store just for models – the clothes have to work for real women.” She trains her staff to give honest opinions (unbiased by commissions–they don’t work for them), and won’t let you leave the store with something that doesn’t look great on you. “I’d rather have someone leave empty-handed,” says Kimberly. Looking around, items bursting from racks and shelves, seducing shoppers with a promise of making them slimmer, sexier and even more radiant, it seems like an impossible exercise in restraint to walk out shopping-bag-free. In her boutique, Kimberly stocks everything from elegant Hervé Léger dresses to sophisticated J Brand Jeans. She favors brands like Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Red Valentino, Mandalay, Christian Louboutin, and Jimmy Choo among others. A testament to her success, Landau brought in shoes and accessories lines, including Saint Laurent, only found in large luxury department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. “They almost never sell to independent shops,” says Kimberly proudly, “but they love what we are doing here.”
Designers respond to her savvy fashion sense (her pedicured feet were donning Jimmy Choos long before Carrie Bradshaw’s were), local tastemaker status and astute understanding of her clientele. Some designers even ask for her input in tailoring their lines to suit her store’s prime shoppers. One word of caution: don’t be fooled by what’s on the racks. “I only place a couple sizes of each item out, but we have stock of all sizes,” says Kimberly, assuring that any woman can find the right fit in her store. Downstairs, you can find sales items, current season merchandise of which she’s sold all but the last sizes.Determined to give woman everything they may need under one roof, Landau teamed up with beauty mecca, Wisteria, when opening the Red Bank store, expanding offerings from clothes and accessories to include skin care, fragrances, makeup, and an exclusive day spa. “Even famous plastic surgeons get their micro-dermabrasion at Wisteria,” she confides.The tan blonde with glowing skin at the helm of the fashion destination is as genuine as she is striking. She spends her days running from store to store, ensuring that the experience will be perfect for all who enter, from the distinctive look, with its zebra stairs, crystal chandeliers, flat TVs and granite floors and trendsetting merchandise to the sales staff employed to make you look and feel sexy and beautiful.Landau recalls with laugh, “When we opened people said, “What do they think, it’s Miami?”It’s a Saturday afternoon and CoCo Parì is crowded with customers. Club music pulses through the store. By the dressing rooms, there’s a woman with two cocktail dresses debating over which works best for a wedding next weekend. By the shoe wall there’s a woman clutching a dazzling black pump for dear life. By the zebra print stairway, there’s a man closely studying a Missoni dress, a possible gift for a very lucky wife. Outside, two teenage boys walk by with baseball caps and jeans. They stop to stare at the window. “Look at those shoes!” one exclaims. “Many people say that they can’t believe they’re in New Jersey,” Kimberly laughs. “Sometimes I can’t believe it.”
Upon first meeting Kimberly Landau, it’s easy to become impressed. She’s a charming, beautiful woman with high energy and high heels to match. More impressive, though, is the fact that she turned her passion for fashion into one of the most successful boutiques in the tri-state area, CoCo Pari. It’s been a long and exciting journey for Kimberley Landau, who was born and raised in Holmdel, New Jersey. She first appeared in print and television commercials. She then turned her fashion sense to the retail world, as she became the owner, merchandiser and sole buyer for the CoCo Pari boutique, which she built from the ground up. Her hard efforts have now paid off, as her high fashion shop has been named the “Best Boutique in New Jersey” by New Jersey Monthly, and come to be recognized as a women’s shop rivaling some of the best stores from Beverly Hills to SoHo.
Landau’s idea for CoCo Pari was inspired by a vacation to Miami Beach’s trendy South Beach district. There, she and her husband explored the funky cafés, shops and the exhilarating nightlife, and vowed to bring a bit of that caché back home. “I saw new trends in upscale bars and fashion boutiques. There were sexy, high-energy vibes and fashion-forward stores that played great background club music with a Latin flair, while attractive, attentive employees served cordials and catered to their customers,” she recalls.
Unable to get South Beach out of her mind, Landau launched CoCo Pari, and the rest is retail history.From the start, the store has offered the type of exceptional service and ambiance Landau found so exciting and inviting in South Beach. Bringing in the unique clothing lines she came to love in Miami proved to be a bit more challenging. Without contacts or credibility to buy from the big name manufacturers, Landau had to rely on her fashion knowledge, experience, and single-minded perseverance. So confident that her concept would work in New Jersey, Landau invested $20,000 of her own money to purchase clothing from South Beach boutiques and wholesalers before she even had a business location or name.Two weeks after opening her doors, however, Landau was completely sold out of her inventory. Amazed and excited, she headed back to South Beach to re-stock her inventory, and increase her pool of wholesale sources. She combed the local boutiques, quaint design showrooms and international wholesalers, making new contacts along the way. Well ahead of the curve, she even discovered trendsetting brands like Jimmy Choo shoes and young up-and-coming designers like Yigal Azrouel. From there Landau started attracting attention and calls from major brands like Saint Laurent and Christian Louboutin, who rarely merchandise with independent retailers but were willing to allow CoCo Pari to carry their lines.
As the store prospered it developed a large and loyal client base. Her upscale patrons appreciated the edgy inventory, and enjoyed being pampered by Landau’s highly trained staff. Just as she was feeling the pressure to expand her business, Landau was introduced to Lisa Stavola. Lisa and Kimberley hit it off and conspired to combine CoCo Pari with a high-end cosmetic, skin care and day spa called Wisteria. They opened the Red Bank store soon thereafter, thus creating a new destination for the area’s most fashion- and beauty-conscious women.
Today, both stores offer signature and diffusion lines of top fashion designers. Clients can buy everything from a Blumarine dress to a pair of Juicy jeans. And both stores treat their customers like they are queens for a day. The CoCo Pari interior is also From the start, the store has offered the type of exceptional service and ambiance Landau found so exciting and inviting in South Beach. Its art deco decor paired with a Parisian flair features modern architecture, granite floors, high ceilings, zebracovered stairs, as well as ultra-cool flat screen TVs, coffee bars and a famous 50-foot “shoe wall” displaying over 250 pairs of shoes each season.
The three-level, 10,000-square-foot flagship store is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and boasts a multimillion-dollar inventory that includes cutting-edge designers such as Class Roberto Cavelli, Catherine Malandrino, RVN and Diane Von Furstenberg , as well as in-demand designers like Choo, Louboutin, and Laurent. Landau remains the driving force behind CoCo Pari’s success, and she passes on her enthusiasm, her fashion philosophy and her mission to her entire staff. Landau personally trains all employees, so they not only appreciate fashion and the importance of the personal touch, but can understand the fit of every individual designer. Sales staff must also be trained to match and select pieces that will work for a full range of body and figure types. Employees, in essence, become “personal shoppers,” helping customers find the perfect clothing and accessories to make them look and feel fabulous.”Life is not a runway,” explains Landau. And with that philosophy in mind, she says she only chooses the most “beautiful designers” and “only picks the best,” making the important distinction between runway models and real people in the items she selects. “We know our customers and what will make them look good,” Landau says with an air of confidence.Landau’s fashion journey has come nearly full circle, as CoCo Pari has become a true fashion attraction in what is quickly becoming the “SoHo” of the New Jersey shore. CoCo Pari offers women a sanctuary and a venue to find clothes and accessories that are on the cusp of fashion trends, yet aren’t too funky to fit typical body types. She provides clothes that make her clients feel good about themselves, and amenities that make them feel like a million bucks even on the worst of days.Landau is surprised and humbled as she realizes that CoCo Pari has become a fashion icon in her area, setting the direction for Red Bank, NJ, to become a fashion leader on the east coast. “I absolutely love what I do,” notes Landau, “and it’s so rewarding to see my vision become not just a reality, but a big success.”Reprinted with permission.