By Kristina Houck
When Tobi Blatt moved from Beverly Hills to Carmel Valley 20 years ago, she had trouble finding stores that offered trendy clothing and accessories.
Therefore, Blatt brought Los Angeles fashion to San Diego and opened her own boutique in 1997. She now has three locations in North County.
“There were no places to really shop,” Blatt said. “There weren’t any boutiques. Department stores didn’t have what I needed, so I decided to create a niche. I was one of the first here that are still standing.”
From designer jeans by J Brand Jeans, to shoes and sandals by Dolce Vita, Tobi Blatt boutiques offer a variety of men and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. To stock her stores with the latest fashions, Blatt and her team travel to New York six times a year.
“We’re always a couple steps ahead,” said 50-year-old Blatt. “We look at trend, color, design, fabrics and quality.”
Fashion has always been a major part of Blatt’s life. Her father was a manufacturer of accessories, and her mother was a senior buyer for a chain of department stores.
At 15 years old, Blatt began working in retail as a stocker at Camp Beverly Hills. She later went on to manage several stores in Los Angeles, including Fred Segal, Madison Los Angeles and Camp Beverly Hills.
“I love fashion, style, fabrics,” Blatt said. “I love it all.”
Business quickly grew after Blatt opened her first boutique in Carmel Valley. The 900-square-foot store expanded to 2,400 square feet. She later opened four additional locations in Carmel Mountain Ranch, Encinitas and Solana Beach.
Still, owning a business hasn’t been easy, Blatt said.
She faced more competition as other boutiques opened in San Diego. Her boutiques used to carry as many as 260 designers, but Blatt cut the list to 50 to set her store apart from the others.
Like other small businesses, Tobi Blatt was also affected by the recession, and the Carmel Mountain Ranch and Encinitas locations were closed.
With business once again booming, Blatt is currently remodeling her flagship store located at 12750 Carmel Country Road in Carmel Valley.
“I think we’re through the rough parts,” she said. “I’d like to be here for another 20 years — that’s my goal. I hope when I’m 70 I’m still selling my clothes to my friends.”
In addition to offering high-quality products, Blatt said her business has been successful because she gives her customers honest feedback and she offers fashion advice.
“I want people to walk out and love what they wear, or don’t buy it,” she said. “I don’t want you to go home and have tags hanging on your clothes. Clothes are expensive; they’re an investment.”
Carmel Valley resident Marsha Berkson has been a customer of Tobi Blatt’s for 15 years.
“It’s the personalized service, stylized service, that you get from her,” said Berkson, who noted her teenage sons shop at Tobi Blatt’s for her birthday and Mother’s Day. “She also carries a lot of unique brands that you don’t find in department stores. You won’t look like everybody else in the same outfit. She really understands her clientele and caters to that and buys accordingly thinking of them.”
Reflecting on her business, Blatt said she never dreamed her original boutique would lead to other locations and a long list of repeat customers.
“I always loved retail,” Blatt said. “I knew once I came here, as soon as I landed here, I had a lot of opportunity.
“I’m so glad I made the leap of faith. Some things have a way of working themselves out.”
Tobi Blatt is located at the Carmel Country Plaza in Carmel Valley: 12750 Carmel Country Rd., San Diego, 92130; 858-509-5949.