“They nicknamed this place ‘Ricki’s Clubhouse’,” laughs one of the women with whom I am speaking that Friday in the little white box nook of Upstairs on 7th.Â At that moment, I am fiddling around with a few pieces of jewelry, trying to decide which will be the perfect item to wear for Ball on the Mall, which happens to be the following night.Â The “Ricki” she is referring to is Ricki Peltzman, the energetic founder and owner of the boutique, which solely focuses on women’s clothing and accessories, but let’s get something straight, it is not your 15 or 20 year old daughter’s boutique.Â And let me stress: on purpose.
Ricki, a bright red lipstick wearing grandmother with smooth porcelain skin and a pension for fashion, moved here from Cleveland nine years ago.Â Her husband, an attorney has been here for 35 years.Â She swept into Washington, D.C. and said, “Hello? Where do I shop? I’m not size 2 or 4 anymore but I want to remain stylish and not look like an old fuddy duddy.”Â She searched high and low and kept coming up short.Â Granted, anyone can point and click on the internet or take the Acela to New York, but let’s be real, we all like a little boutique to wander through, to feel the fabrics, to try the clothing on, to look in the mirror, to do a fashion show for our friends, before we actually buy.Â So Ricki said, “I’m not looking anymore, I’m doing it myself.”
“I thought, I can’t be the only woman with this challenge.Â The city is full of 40, 50, 60, even 70 and 80 year old women who aren’t size 4 and still want to look fabulous.Â I wanted to offer these women a place to go to, feel comfortable, relax, and play.”Â Upstairs has a small salon look and feel and I personally always refer to it as somewhat of an art gallery, because yes, it even has art on its white walls for sale through the artists themselves.Â There is a comfy seating area with a coffee table, complete with, on this day, Girl Scout cookies (no diet time in here!) and Ricki, who calls herself the “hostess” will bring out the bubbly for you if you think you need to spend a long time in there.
To her delight and to the women’s she’s worked with, Ricki’s loyal clientele at Upstairs has developed and grown since the doors opened, and by the way, while it’s located in the lobby of the office building 555 12th Street, NW with no street entrance, its original home was actually on 7th Street until about three years ago.Â I ask her who shops at Upstairs on 7th?Â “The most interesting women!Â I’ve met such fascinating people (who have become not only her patrons, but her friends) while here.Â Attorneys, high powered women from the Justice Department, heads of the arts and non profit world, judges, executives from various industries, you name it.Â And they come in here and have fun, play, try on clothes, meet each other, shop, catch up-” she is interrupted by an enthusiastic long time client, “It’s always so much fun!” The woman drops her finds on the counter and wanders over to the brightly colored rubbery change purses and cases, which stand out on the white counter.Â “I have to have this!” holding up a pink mini change purse to us.Â I agree as I too, have recently purchased a small purple bag, ideal for the beach and my upcoming time in the Bahamas.
Ricki’s clients are so loyal, one moved away and now she buys from Upstairs by way of Skype.Â Yes, shop by Skype.Â “I bring over the new pieces and show them to her on the screen, she gives me the yay or nay, and we also get to catch up on life,” she says.Â “Oh yes, I’ve been in here when she’s doing it, it’s fun to watch,” nods yet another woman who has come in with a friend.
The theme seems to be “fun” here at Upstairs.Â Fun, yes, because it’s like being in your cool big sister’s closet who has a major shopping addition because there is new inventory coming in every week from Paris, New York, even here locally.Â Upstairs has dresses, scarves, handbags (all PVC, no leather, so the bags are $100 and below), totes, jewelry galore, candles, tees, tops, skirts, and tights and just in, Eyebobs. There’s a “funkiness” to Ricki as there is to the ever changing inventory, but as she tells me, “You can dress conservatively if you want to, or some variation, because we all have to go to work. A Cabinet member told me that they wait to see what their Deputy is wearing that morning because it’s always so much fun” (again that word).
Ricki tells me her philosophy, “There’s no trick to buying a $3,000 Armani suit right off a mannequin.Â But to be able to put together a fabulous fun look for $300, well, there’s a trick to that.” Indeed.
Pamela’s Punch Partner Upstairs on 7th carries Anett Rostel, Comfy, Dress to Kill, Niche, Ray Harris, Planet, and many others in ApparelÂ and Sissy Yates, Realm by Jesse Walker, Bosco, Bai New York, Aura, and many more in Accessories.Â You can follow Upstairs on 7th on Twitter @Upstairson7th & Fan them on Facebook.
555 12th Street, NW Lobby Level | www.upstairson7th.com | (301) 351-8308 | Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm | call for store hours on the weekend
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.