Clothing Boutique Pulls Up With Style

Jasmine Casana

     In 2014, Special Education teacher Denise Kochi took a break from her teaching career to expand upon her business, opening her own boutique inside a refurbished surf bus.

     “I started an online boutique in 2011 and I was teaching at the time so I kind of just did it on the side. It did well, it did alright,” said Kochi. “About maybe a few years after, I saw a special on ‘Good Morning America’ and they were doing a special on fashion trucks so I thought, ‘hm I wonder if I could do something like that here.’”

     Kochi’s boutique Uptown Closet has offered a wide variety of clothing in all sizes. “I carry clothes that range from little kids, I have a small selection of little girls clothes, but I also carry up to size 3x,” said Kochi.

     Because of her two young daughters, Kochi strived to use her boutique as a way to show the importance of self love to her children and her customers. “Our motto, my motto, Uptown Closet’s motto is beauty knows no boundaries,” said Kochi. “The reason I started was because of my two young daughters. I don’t want them growing up feeling like because they’re not a size zero or whatever, that they’re not pretty or they’re not beautiful and also to get away from thinking that it’s only outside beauty that matters.”

     With her two daughters, Kochi has worked hard to fight the prejudice of today’s expectations in the media. “People need to get away from the stereotypical models that they see in the magazines and TVs and they need to realize that people will never look like that. They don’t realize that when they see that on a magazine and everything, they have hundreds of thousands of dollars to make them look like that and a lot of the time that’s not reality, and what happens is that that message is passed on to the girls.”

     Along with spreading body positivity, Kochi often sponsored pageants that promote a good message. “I sponsored the Miss Hawaii Pageant for maybe three or four years. I still sponsor Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Team and I also still sponsor—it’s called the Junior High High School Collegiate America Pageant. They focus on bullying so I got involved with them because they’re positive role models,” said Kochi, “It’s not necessarily only about the outside beauty, it is focusing on being a good person.”

     As Kochie’s boutique truck began to grow to be more well know within the community, she was featured on different platforms on multiple occasions and received positive feedback from the viewers. “I’ve been on the news several times and then I was on the ‘Living Hawaii Special,’” said Kochi. “I’ve had people call me or send me emails and just say thank you. So they’ll call me and they’ll just say, ‘I saw you on TV and I heard your message. Thank you for that.’”

     After a four year break, Kochi has taken up teaching again and has placed her boutique truck in park for awhile as the school year progresses. “Now since I’ve started teaching again it hasn’t been out for a few months—before I went back to teaching it was about once or twice a week,” said Kochi. “I’m actually thinking of scaling way back and actually maybe going back to just online; not sure if I’m just going to do it online or continue with the mobile store.”

     When working with an online shop and her truck boutique, Kochi learned that there are noticeable advantages and disadvantages to both. “With the website, it doesn’t take up as much time because it’s a matter of keeping the inventory updated, loading up pictures for new merchandise, shipping out orders,” said Kochi. “So actually being in the mobile, it’s kind of like you have the freedom—because it’s like a food truck concept but with fashion—so you have the freedom of going where ever you want, you’re not stuck in a regular store setting.”

     After going through the process of starting a business on her own, Kochi found that it wasn’t as great as everyone had made it out to seem. “Owning your own business takes way more time than if you’re working for somebody else,” said Kochi. “It was constantly on my mind, consisting (of) the stresses of running the business, but it started out to be a fun job and so really the only time it became not fun was when I was doing it full time.”

     When she had first begun, Kochi faced many struggles before being able to open the boutique. “In the beginning, because it was the first of its kind here, getting the required permits and everything—when I would call nobody quite knew how to package (the insurance). So it was kind of like calling around, trial and error,” said Kochi. “It was hard work but it was fun work. I would encourage anybody that wanted to do it to go for it. Be different.”

     Any updates on Denise Kochi’s boutique truck or online shop can be found on her Instagram and Facebook @uptowncloset and on