Jun 3, 2015
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A new boutique clothing and apparel shop is set to open soon on Macdonald Avenue in Richmond.

City residents Johanna Arroliga and Adriana Vasquez, both 26 years old, said they are poised to open Ella (pronounced a-yah) at 3526 Macdonald Ave., near 36th Avenue. The pair, who were classmates at Helms Middle School and Richmond High, are awaiting a business license before officially opening, Arroliga said.

“Just getting the word out,” she added.

The small business is offering clothing, accessories and an environment aimed at empowering girls and women (included the outfit worn in the image below), Arroliga said. The business’ vision was partly inspired by Arroliga’s mother, who died of cancer Jan. 12.

“I’m choosing to honor her name,” she said, adding the process of starting the company has greatly helped her through the grieving process.

ella.6-2-1When Arroliga’s mother passed after an eight-month battle with her illness, she had no money to bury her. Her mother was a hard worker who loved being self-employed, so Arroliga vowed to pass along her legacy of love, patience, understanding and family through a new business.

The sign outside my store is my way of leaving a piece of her, her memory, her legacy,” Arroliga said. “I wasn’t able to afford a plot at the time of her death. Now that sign is there for everybody to see.”

Vasquez has a similar mission, having paired with Arroliga to honor her parents. Her father survived cancer.

Along with the product line (some items can currently be viewed and ordered through the company’s Instagram account here), Arroliga and Vasquez are learning to sew with the aim of creating matching mommy-daughter sets for their clients. The idea came to Arroliga when she learned loved ones are often memorialized through quilts from a loved ones clothing. She is learning the craft on her mother’s sewing machine.

Concurrently, Arroliga is also setting up a nonprofit organization honoring her mom’s legacy that aims to donate to the families of cancer-stricken women and children in the San Pablo and Richmond areas. Before her death, Arroliga’s mother had wanted to start a nonprofit.

“That is the reason we decided to name the store ELLA (ay•ya) because that’s who we are doing it for in hopes to inspire and empower all women in the area,” Arroliga said.

The founders hope their business will help inspire an influx of affordable shopping options along Macdonald Avenue.

“This can be a movement, we just need people willing to make the jump,” according to the company’s Instagram. “Everybody is unique and has something different to offer. So please if interested ask questions because we are not looking to compete. @3lla.co is on a mission to Inspire!”


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.