Adele Morelli was a customer at Boutique La Passerelle before she became the owner in 2013.
At the time, Morelli worked at BNY Mellon. She was also something of a rarity: a Downtown resident since 1999.
Morelli said the Wood Street boutique was one of the only places Downtown to buy women’s clothing outside of Macy’s, which closed in 2015. When the store’s original owner decided to sell it, Morelli knew it needed to stay put.
Boutique La Passerelle, French for runway boutique, offers clothing from designers in Europe — pieces that aren’t generally seen at shops in the U.S., let alone Pittsburgh. It is the only clothing store solely focused on women’s apparel Downtown (nearby Larrimor’s sells designer clothing for men and women).
Morelli and General Manager Anna Ciaccio make trips overseas to pick out inventory and bring their finds back to the states.
“People want to find something different. They want to feel something special,” Morelli said.
At Boutique La Passerelle, Ciaccio said she’s built personal relationships with customers, and it’s these good experiences that keep them coming back.
Ciaccio added, “If you do brick and mortar, you have to do something different.”
Cidalia Duarte opened the Downtown boutique in 2010 and sold the business to Morelli three years later. Ciaccio has worked there since the beginning.
Ciaccio said Duarte liked the historic building, with its glass front and large second-level windows.
“She also thought Downtown was a gem in the hiding,” Ciaccio said. “She got here before anyone else was here.”
Morelli was a frequent customer at the boutique before she purchased it from Duarte.
“When I found out Cidalia was selling it, I knew it had to stay here,” Morelli said.
Downtown doesn’t get a lot of attention for shopping, Morelli said, but the area where the boutique is located is seeing a resurgence in development.
Next door, Landmarks Development Corporation — a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation — is working to restore the facade and interior of the space formerly occupied by The J.R. Weldin Co.
Chas Schaldenbrand, owner of the Downtown men’s clothing store Heinz Healey’s, wants to open a women’s clothing store in the space, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The foundation is looking for an appropriate tenant, a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation spokesperson told The Incline Tuesday.
Around the corner, construction on Point Park’s Pittsburgh Playhouse in the 300 block of Forbes Avenue is ongoing; it’s expected to open in 2018.
Morelli said she plans to keep Boutique La Passerelle Downtown — and hopes more retailers will follow her.
There’s a limited amount of space in the store, but Morelli starting selling women’s shoes to respond to customer demand. She and Ciaccio hope others will fill some of the voids: a full-service women’s shoe store, a lingerie shop, somewhere to buy pantyhose that isn’t CVS.
Places that sell “things that women need,” Ciaccio said.
Holiday gift recommendations
Near the back of the store, Morelli highlighted a selection of colorful sweaters from Rialbanni. Morelli and Ciaccio traveled to Porto, Portugal earlier this year to bring the brand’s Fall line back to Pittsburgh.
In addition to purses and accessories from New York, the boutique also sells jewelry from local designer Charmed by Jenn.
On Small Business Saturday, Charmed by Jenn will offer a buy-one-get-one-half-off special and the boutique will donate 10 percent of sales to The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh.
Boutique La Passerelle is located at 417 Wood St. and is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is closed on Thanksgiving.
P.S. Parking in all Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages is free on Black Friday and every Saturday until Christmas.