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Laura Macris and Rebecca Penner are two striking, stylish and business-savvy young women who have helped transform Charles Street into a Mecca for fashion-conscious shoppers.
They are the co-owners of Crush Boutique, which they opened in 2007 at 131 Charles Street with a carefully chosen collection of contemporary women’s fashions by both emerging and well-known designers.
It was not long before Crush began accumulating one ‘Best of Boston’ award after another and its fashions were featured in the media. Macris and Penner made their debut on Newbury Street with a second Crush in 2012. Just recently they launched an expansive online store.
They describe themselves as the kind of girls who love New York City and Los Angeles silk collections, cocktail dresses and designer denim, and the boutique as fun, flirtatious and fashion-forward. They chose fashions that always do well and often push the envelope on trends because, they say, Boston is becoming a very fashionable city.
Their story is a story of a dream come true. Macris and Penner are not only business partners. They are best friends.
They were just 13 years old then they met in junior high. Penner had moved from New York to the Connecticut town of Guilford, where Macris had grown up. “The instant I saw Laura’s trendy Jennifer Aniston hairdo, I knew at once that we would be best friends,” said Penner.
Already fashionistas, they spent much of their teen years clipping and saving pictures of vogue styles they saw in fashion magazines, often adapting them for their own attire. They drew new designs of their own. They loved dolls and paper dolls, on which they created new looks by adding different accessories.
Today they photograph pieces from their racks, post them on social media via Instagram, and blog about how the best pieces in any wardrobe are ones that transition from one season to the next and into several different ensembles.
“My father’s fondest memory of us,” said Penner, “took place during our freshmen year at Guilford High School when Laura and I pretended we were going to the Golden Globes. We did our hair, makeup, dressed in our prom gowns, carried a clutch and went into the living room to watch the fashions.”
They still watch the Globes, sharing photos online of looks they love. This spring, Crush’s ten staff members will dress up for cocktails and Oscar fashion-viewing in Penner’s living room.
It was in high school when Penner and Macris first dreamed of having a store of their own. They became the go-to stylists for their friends, often helping them pick party and prom dresses. Today they say their greatest satisfaction comes from giving a customer, frustrated with her figure, a look that gives her confidence by choosing flattering fabrics, cuts and drapes.
At their parents’ urging, the two studied liberal arts rather than fashion after high school. Penner went to New York’s Union College where she majored in economics, and Macris studied art history at Pennsylvania’s Lafayette College and the University of Connecticut. Despite their separation, they never lost their dream.
They both set out in the corporate world. For three years, Macris worked at public relations firms in Connecticut and Boston. Penner landed a job at Price Waterhouse and Cooper in Boston, where “I didn’t take to the business attire and desk sitting,” she said. She lasted a year.
It was then that the two set out to make their dream come true.
For the experience and to ensure they would enjoy careers in retail, Penner worked at Calypso on Newbury Street and helped open Mint Julep in Brookline. The pair traveled to New York and Los Angeles to research new designers. They took classes in fashion at Massachusetts College of Art.
And, at the age of 25 years, they opened the first Crush, naming it such because women have crushes on clothes. Their dream had come true.
They have never looked back. “I wake up every day excited about working with our customers and thinking about new things to do,” said Macris.
“I am thrilled,” added Penner. “I hear others talking about their jobs and their struggles, but ours are never unpleasant. With a 50-50 partnership, I know Laura is always there. When we face a tough decision, we always have each other to talk things over.”
They juggle busy lives. Rebecca, now married, works to bring more people to support neighborhood businesses through her role as president of the Beacon Hill Business Association. They ski. Laura, the creative one, loves to bake and cook.
They love living the dream they created. And, they are still best friends.