27 January, 2015

Fashion is good for the soul:

We're so grateful to the Prescott Daily Courier, and everyone who contributed to this great write-up on HOP SING published earlier this week.  So fun!  THANK YOU! 


Text: Arlene Hittle, Prescott Daily Courier
Photo: Lee Stukenberg, Prescott Daily Courier

If laughter is good for the soul, Lauren Woltman may well have the healthiest soul in town.

Woltman, who owns Hop Sing Trading Co. with her husband Jeff, has a ready smile and is quick with a joke.

After 33 years in Kauai, Hawaii, and more than 20 years in retail, she moved to Prescott in 2009 to be closer to her parents, relocating her shop to the Bashford Court Mall downtown.

"We just passed our five-year mark in November," she said.

Much like its owner, Hop Sing has a fun, funky vibe. Brightly colored knit sweaters hang with denim jackets, jeans and bold graphic T-shirts. Unique shoes and boots sit next to hand-knit hats and scarves. Chunky jewelry, luxe nail and lip colors, slouchy purses and bath bombs in delicious scents complete the collection.

Above all, the atmosphere is inviting.

"This definitely is not a snobby boutique," employee Andrea Hamby said. She hasn't worked with Woltman long, but they shared an instant connection since they both had lived in Hawaii.

Woltman loves working retail.

"I kind of eat, sleep and breathe fashion," she said.

But she's not talking the runway styles many people think of when they hear the world "fashion."

"My perspective is far more casual," said Woltman, who writes a fashion column for The Daily Courier's entertainment section, Kudos, and blogs at hopsingtradingco.blogspot.com. She's also active on Instagram and Twitter (@hopsingtrading). 

The daughter of a professional surfer, she grew up in Pacific Beach, California, surrounded by other famous surfers and their friends, who came from as far away as Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

"What I remember most is that these well-traveled bohemians felt completely free to express themselves, both fashionably and otherwise," she writes on the blog. "My fashion foundation was laid with the bold fashion statements and glowing tans of surf gods and their goddesses."

Her favorite part of retail work: physically transforming women.

"I love my customers, and I love helping them decorate themselves," she said. "We're always looking for ways to help a woman feel more confident."

Among the ways Woltman gives her customers that shot of confidence?

"As I get older, I've become a lot more fearless in what I wear," she said. "It's always fun for me to teach the ladies to play a little bit."

Whether that's pairing a lace skirt with a graphic T and hand-knit sweater or putting two seemingly clashing prints together, the results nudge customers to go home and look at their closet differently.

"She really puts together pieces that you wouldn't think would work," Hamby said. "She has magic like that."

The formula for success, Woltman said, lies in knowing how to dress pieces up or down. Depending on the top it's paired with, one skirt can be equally at home at church or at the grocery store.

Hop Sing customer Mandy Moreau, who lives in Prescott Valley, agrees. 

"My husband knows I like her store and goes in and asks Lauren to help him pick out clothes or gifts. She has never once steered him wrong (even down to getting the right sizing when I'm not there to try stuff on)," she said via email.

"She takes time to get to know her customers - their likes and dislikes, personal style, what makes them comfortable and confident and, perhaps more important, what makes them uncomfortable," Moreau said. "The quality of her items are top-notch, and she takes pride in what she sells, where the products come from and who makes them."

Quality definitely matters for Woltman, who said 50 percent or more of her store's merchandise is sourced in the United States.

"Quality is paramount in my world," she said. That goes for both the clothes she wears and the food she eats. "I'd rather have a lot less, but a whole lot better."

That's the common thread she plans to weave through her life in 2015: Work less, work better. Buy less, buy better.

Hop Sing's prices range anywhere from $5 to $400.

For women who might be thinking twice - or three times - about wearing a pricy $200 sweater to the grocery store, she has one word of advice: Don't.

"Your life is only this long," Woltman said, holding up her hands about a foot apart. "You want to celebrate it every day."

Family is among the things Woltman celebrates every day. Her daughter and three grandchildren live in San Luis Obispo, on California's central coast, which gives her the opportunity to go to the beach on vacation. She relishes the chance to return to the sand, surf and sunsets.

"It's such a refreshment to get back to it," she said.

Woltman gets a lot of support from her friends, family and husband, Jeff. 

"He's the second half of mom and pop," she said.

They've been married for 14 years, after meeting in Hawaii. Her third husband, Jeff is proof that when you stop looking, "in walks the love of your life."

"I get to spend every day with my best friend," she said.

She makes a point of reflecting on and vocalizing appreciation for who she has in her life, what she has, and her customer base.

"Without them, I couldn't do this," Woltman said.

Her customers feel the same way about her.

"Hop Sing combines the best of small-town friendliness with international style," regular Gudrun Miller said via email. "Lauren, Jeff and the staff have become friends and I go to the store just to visit."

Miller continued: "Lauren has a knack for putting pieces together and coming up with amazing outfits. She specializes in helping women of all ages and sizes feel good about how they look."

The boutique carries a tote bag that does a fair job of summing up Woltman's philosophy. Emblazoned with a motorcycle-riding woman, it bears a quote from Glinda, the Good Witch: "You had the power all along, my dear."

She introduces women to new ways to get dressed, encouraging them put together the basics in a not-so-basic way.

"If you look good, it makes you feel good," Woltman said.

23 January, 2015

Show your Closet who's Boss!

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Lauren Woltman
Kudos columnist

The weather here kills me! It's so perfect! We get a smattering of snow to help us officially celebrate winter ... and then here comes spring! Yesterday, I wore a cotton dress, a pair of tall leather boots and a lightweight cardigan - and I didn't freeze! In fact, I was warm. Hello Spring?! I'm confused. 

Anyway, it also inspires me to roll up my sleeves and purge my home of the inevitable clutter that 2014 obviously left behind. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I've spoken to quite a few ladies recently who are greatly overwhelmed by a closet jam packed with clothing they "just don't wear," and I've listened to hilarious stories about Rubbermaid storage systems, and how it's become an obstacle course of madness to just navigate an outfit a day out of the sea of plenty. 

Ahhhh! American living at its finest! We often have so much, but tend to wear the same things, over and over ... so, today I present to you an escape plan!

Prescott has an abundance of venues capable of bringing you relief from wardrobe excessiveness! All you need to do is sort out the distribution pattern. Keep, Donate or Sell: 

1. Keep the things you really actually wear. 

2. Donate the stuff that no resale shop would consider taking.

3. Consign or sell the rest! 

Sounds easy, huh! It's not. First of all you have to be realistic. Just because you paid too much to give it away, doesn't mean anyone else will buy it. The items you wish to consign or sell must be clean, fresh, cute and relevant - to the fashion demographics of our town, the season ahead and actual current style trends. 

Unless an item is truly classic vintage, no corporate world power suit, no matter how much you paid for it, is going to bring you a return on your investment. It's Prescott ladies! 

Um ... neither does that silk-taffeta bridesmaid dress - hold the secret to cashing in on your stuffed-to-the-gills closet. Expert organizers say that one-third of your closet is filled with clothing that falls into one of the following categories:

• It doesn't fit.

• You don't have anything to wear with it.

• It isn't comfortable.

• You don't have an occasion to wear it. 

Well, it's time to let it go! Closet space is prime real estate! You are hoarding clothes that don't look good on you, that you don't want to wear, and that are taking up space where really awesome clothes could be hanging. 

Oh, and the guilt. Let's not forget the guilt! You know that voice in your head that's saying: "I can't believe I spent all this money on these clothes that I never wear." That voice that haunts you every time you walk in your closet. What? That voice isn't in your head? It's coming from your husband? Yes, I know that one too!

You need to sort it out. I have a rule: If you more often than not, put on an article of clothing only to take it off again before you leave the house, you probably won't wear it - EVER. Maybe you purchased it on a SALE rack and although it was priced to entice, it really isn't you. Cut your losses and move it along! 

If you don't wish to do consignment, there are few choices that I know of here in downtown Prescott. Call "Snap Snap" 928-776-8695, if they love your stuff, they may offer you instant gratification and buy your items outright. For more traditional consignment venues in downtown try "Lucky You Boutique" 928-717-9349, "Ooh La La Clothing Boutique" 928-778-0069 or "What Ever Was" 928-778-4186, just to name a few. 

Or maybe you're ready to totally give up the ghost of fashion past? Here are a few charitable thrift shops that will gratefully take everything you're willing to donate: "Noah Foundation" 928-798-0545, "Stepping Stones" 928-776-3010, or Disabled American Veterans 928-445-8618. Some may even pick up the donation from your doorstep. 

Now go enjoy this beautiful day! I've gotta run, I've got some weighty decisions to make myself! Smiles! 

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.

02 January, 2015

New Year - New Perspective

"A car has a relatively small rear-view mirror so we can occasionally glance back to where we've been. It has an enormous windshield so we can look ahead to where we are going (and where we are in the moment). Now is the time to look forward and re-imagine all the possibilities that lie before you." - Wisdom imparted courtesy of a television advertisement. 

As New Years Eve quickly approaches and this is the last article I will write this year, I find myself in a reflective state, gazing for a few moments into the metaphorical rear-view mirror. 

Could I have been kinder or had more patience? Spoken slower, and been quicker to recognize a blessing - even in disguise? Could I have worked harder or perhaps worked less? Did I love fiercely and loyally? Was I satisfied with my choices? Did I complain too much? Eat too much? Did I improve myself in any way? A year is a long time... did I use my time wisely?

OK. You get the picture... each of us should give these type of thoughts, some thought.

Now, lets look ahead, through the windshield... metaphorically. You can now see all the possibilities that lie before you. You are no longer trapped in scarcity and narrowed vision. Focus on what is emerging right now, in the moment, and in the potentiality of your future. 

You have a whole world ahead of you! What new adventures will you pursue? Maybe you should drive yourself toward a healthier fashionable new you? Updating your clothing style always feels good (...and I'd love to help you with that!!!). Women especially need to impart new attitudes toward negative thoughts about themselves... practice positive affirmations, "you're not fat," "you're curvy," "you're not poor," "you're thoughtful about how you spend your wealth." You're worth more than the cheapest made-in-China jewelry, handbag and, yes, it costs more but, darn it, you deserve healthy organic produce!

Don't let the rear-view considerations impact your fresh motivation and perspective. Don't spend much time dwelling on past mistakes, habits or intentions you've abandoned. Remember a windshield also is a protective shield from cold, wet and bugs! Seek those in your life who bring joy, motivation and a real zest for a higher quality life.

Tune your attention to a higher frequency, surround yourself in qualities that define who you really are - at your essence. Exude as much inner beauty as you wish to physically embody. Be more grateful and aware of grace when it visits you. Practice extreme acts of kindness. 

Remember to look out through the great windshield of life everyday instead of putting your attention on the small... very tiny... perspective of the rear-view mirror. Imagine all the possibilities before you. Now let's begin writing our next story. 

Carpe Diem, seize the day, the moment, your life!

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.

26 December, 2014

Three Days of Thanks - We Love Ya!

**** OMG! Seriously!!! Have you seen our jewelry??? ****
Saturday 10-6:30
Sunday 11-5:30

13 December, 2014

The high cost of "cheap".

When I was a child one of my favorite things to do when visiting my grandmother was to sit beside her as she shared her beautifully lacquered Japanese jewelry box with me. That box held a special place in her heart and brought back many memories of when she and her family had been stationed in Japan, when her husband, (not my Grandfather) was in the service.

Sweethearts dressed up and danced the night away at "Sweetheart Socials"
The post war officers clubs hosted many a "social". These events afforded military couples stationed on foreign military bases, to experience a taste of controlled nightlife with their loved ones and friends.

I'd watch her as her hands lovingly caressed the ornate mother of pearl and abalone inlay that decorated the box with images of Mount Fuji and fancy Geisha girls. When my grandmother opened the box she was instantly transported to faraway places and distant memories.. 

This type of jewelry chest was traditionally purchased by American military men and given to the one they loved. These chests were often referred to as "Sweetheart Tansu" during Post-war Japan.

As each little compartment and padded drawer was opened, the treasured item within brought back memories of a special time, place, or person - connecting her viscerally to that moment, forever. 
When Grandma passed away, several items from the box were given to me and I love them still. A strand of Mikimoto pearls, a beautiful sterling silver necklace etched with Thai dancers, earrings, a brooch and matching bracelet, and an intricately carved ivory pendant, simply hung on a worn leather cord. 

Thoughts of my beautiful grandmother, her glamorous personal style, and jewelry have always warmed my memories of her. I think not only of the moments associated with them, but the fine craftsmanship, design, and quality they possess. They are as "cool" to me now as they were 40 years ago. 

My grandmother - or - Glam-mother!

The phrase: "They don't make 'em like they used to," sits with me as I reflect on current trends in the marketplace. The jewelry industry today is afflicted by trends moving so fast, that an item is often passé by the time you bring it home. Semi-precious stones often are replaced with a dab of epoxy resin for color. Gold and silver have been replaced with scary toxins like cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic - dangerous carcinogens that have no business being near our skin, let alone hanging around our necks. Like lead, cadmium adds weight and shape to jewelry and is cheap to use in manufacturing.

Last week I spoke with two chatty, darling little girls who came into my store oooohing and ahhhing over the jewery cases. Adorably they inquired as to the cost of several pieces of jewelry in the shop. The conversation briefly went something like this. "How much is that, and that, and that?" in true childlike manner, they asked.. "It's $ 69.00, $119.00, $250.00" I replied. I chuckled as their little eyes and and jaws gaped wide as they both breathlessly and repeatedly chimed the word, "... Dollars?" These sweet little girls were approximately 10 years and they excitedly proceeded to —show and tell me— about the bounty of jewelry they had just purchased with "only five dollars"! They had obviously be given money to entertain themselves, and my heart broke when I saw what they had each purchased. These sweet babies were so proud of the sparlkly treasures they had found and excitedly proceeded to tell me how much it "cost", or rather - didn't cost, compared to the cost of the jewelry they encountered in my store. 

Hello! Parents!!! Children’s organs are still developing! A level of cadmium that may not be as toxic to a healthy adult is seriously toxic to children; the problem with cadmium is that it accumulates in the body and itt can cause kidney disease, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It can contribute to brittle bones. It has been linked to neurological disease, lung cancer and even prostate enlargement. Children deserve the best chance possible to grow up healthy - in mind and body. I am concerned that they are being subtly poisoned and many people aren't even aware of it. $10.00 may have purchased a moment of peace quiet for the parents of these youngsters, but at what possible longterm cost? 

How can these sell for so little cost?

With so many health related issues striking the young and not so young today, might it be related to the hidden toxins in our world? It's no secret that manufacturers have become careless and complacent in their use of cheap, hazardous materials - which is why it's so important for retailers like me to play watchdog and be diligent about the items we present our customers with. I care about my customers, and I care about the health of my community; therefore, I refuse to sell items made in toxic foreign factories with cancer-causing chemicals. Sadly, many retailers are not doing their due-diligence. The bottom line speaks louder than public safety, and if it's sparkly and cheap, it'll sell.

Photo: Coutesey of Health Roundup

Last year, the non-profit organization The Ecology Center ran tests on 99 pieces of jewelry (some of which were geared toward children but most for adults) that were purchased from 14 different stores across the country, many big boxes or chain stores. They checked each piece for dangerous additives like lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic. And, surprise, surprise, over half of the jewelry had high levels of these hazardous chemicals, including 27 of the pieces that had lead levels exceeding the 300 ppm limit for children's products. Ninety percent of the pieces had chromium and nickel, which can cause allergic reactions, and 10 percent of the pieces had cadmium, which is a toxic metal that's been the subject of other jewelry and toy recalls. There's also the problem of brominated flame retardants, which are usually sprayed onto jewelry made in China, and can rub off onto your skin or be inhaled. The compound used is a known hormone disrupter - definitely not the best accessory one can think of. Are you really going to be satisfied buying something that is simply "compliant," meaning allowable toxicity, because its pretty, trendy and cheap? As the Christmas season approaches, I (like you) am considering the gifts I'll be giving to my loved ones and I thoroughly renounce this unfortunate trend. In the past 30 years, the persona of the retail marketplace has changed, and with so many opportunities for excellence and personal expression, too many stores have made shortcuts and mediocrity king.

If a company can have a mission other than simple survival, mine is to resist the current direction the market is taking and suggest another way. Good design isn't something disposable, and you can take pride in something you bought years ago; perhaps even sharing it with generations to come, creating memories around something special and precious. 

Anything truly valuable takes some care, whether it's your grandmother's jewelry or your grandmother herself. The things you wear really can be an expression of who you are; they can make you feel good, but they also can make you sick if you're not reading labels and asking questions. 

What will be the story around a piece of jewelry you buy? Will that item reflect a special and lasting memory, or it will expose you or your loved one to toxins?

Lauren Woltman is the owner of Hop Sing Trading Co. in the Bashford Courts, 130 W. Gurley St.