Crista Botticello was voted the student with the “Most School Spirit” when she graduated from Iroquois High School in 2009. She would go on to study education at SUNY Buffalo State before she opened Ooo la la boutique at 663 Main St. in East Aurora.
Her mobile boutique is a recent addition. Painted bright pink, the former delivery truck rolls up to local fashion and music events, and is popular on the home-shopping party circuit.
At age 22, Botticello may be a young businesswoman, but her savvy already has turned heads. In 2012, she was recognized by the Erie County Legislature for giving back to the community through her “Passion for Fashion and Business” scholarship program. In 2010, she worked with Journey’s End Refugee Services to gather used men’s and women’s coats for refugee families living locally.
People Talk: What kind of a kid were you?
Crista Botticello: I grew up with an older brother so I was more like a tomboy. I loved playing sports. I got a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Pikeville College in Kentucky, but I decided to stay local. Then I started to transform into this. So I’m into fashion but at night when I go home I put my Adidas sweatpants on.
PT: What’s it like behind the wheel of your fashion truck?
CB: It was a little scary the first time because it was so big, and you forget that you are in this huge van, but you get used to it. Today I drove in heels. But it’s awesome. You’ll be driving down the Thruway and people do double-takes. The parking is still a little difficult, and you really can’t go that fast. It’s a former FedEx truck.
PT: How did you come upon it?
CB: I couldn’t find one in this area, so I took a chance and bought it on eBay. It’s from Boston. It’s not like your normal store where you sweep up and you’ll be fine, or you’ll have a leak every once in a while. Trucks have maintenance schedules. But then again, you’re not paying rent.
PT: Do you get grief from other boutique owners, like the food trucks do from restaurants?
CB: We receive a little bit of push back, not as much as the food trucks obviously. Nothing too crazy. We’ve been in Williamsville and on Hertel Avenue in Buffalo. The difference between food trucks and my truck is that food trucks can tweet their locations and draw customers. That doesn’t work well for us so we’ve turned to special events. We do home shopping parties versus parking on a street corner without an invite.
PT: What challenge do you face making an attractive display for your boutique on wheels?
CB: When we opened, I was trying to figure out how to have as much merchandise without having it look like a big cluttered closet. So we brought in a closet specialist to figure out how we could maximize the space. It’s a great idea, but we also need to keep it chic and classy so people don’t feel like they’re shopping in a truck.
PT: How did you come up with your store name?
CB: A long time ago – when I was 14 – I wanted to open a shoe store, and the name was going to be Shoe-la-la. So I sat down with my mom to spin some ideas. We just kept “Ooo la la.”
PT: Describe your personal fashion style.
CB: Funky and unique, but at night I love the Kate Spade look, a classic high-waisted look.
PT: What is your signature statement?
CB: I don’t usually wear jeans. I’m always in dresses.
PT: Where do you shop?
CB: If not here, then Anthropologie. I try and stay away from the big box stores if I can, but obviously we all shop there once in a while.
PT: You opened a shop at age 19. Where did you get your discipline? Where did you get your down payment?
CB: I ran it past my parents, took out a loan and opened a store. A couple of years later I did the same things with the truck. We had been in the spotlight for a while and we had to find a new way to spin it. So instead of opening another store location, why not a mobile boutique?
PT: How tough a sell is fashion in Buffalo?
CB: I think it’s improving. We have people like Lauren Byrd who created Fashion Week in Buffalo. We have the ability to be a great fashion area with great boutiques on Elmwood and Hertel, and in Williamsville and East Aurora.
PT: What sells fast?
CB: Sweater dresses in the fall. We had them before they were really bumpin’.
PT: What about long dresses?
CB: Maxi dresses have been in for a long time now, about three years. They just tweak the styles. Taller people can wear them. Shorter people can wear them. Skinny people, larger people. You can always find the right maxi dress for your body type.
PT: What could you use more of?
CB: Time. I’m young and I’ve grown up in the eye. So my friends are out partying, and I’m home working. My friends are out doing whatever college students do and I’m making sure our Facebook is updated, making sure our Twitter is right, updating inventory. I’d like to be out with my friends, but at the same time I’m building my fashion empire.
PT: How do you keep up on fashion?
CB: The seasonal shows in New York, when we go on our buying trips. That’s where I learn what’s coming in. I take my Mom with me. You never know who you are sitting next to. My mom and I were having lunch one day, and we were sitting next to the buyers for “Desperate Housewives.”
PT: What do you do to unwind?
CB: I play soccer. I horseback ride. Work is fun for me as well.
PT: Are you related to some food family in town?
CB: Lloyd Taco Trucks, but I’m not related. Lloyd is my boyfriend’s brother.