By Miriam Valverde Sun Sentinel.
She still remembers that exact spot outside a subway station in New York City where she would plant her table, scatter atop her handmade jewelry and for hours stand, several inches deep in snow, hoping to sell and make money.
That was more than two decades ago.
These days, though not forgetting her past, Kim Bolufé looks forward to mid-December, when she's projected to open her third retail store in one of South Florida's most sought-after destinations -- Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.
She had her eyes on the popular street for four years and when 2,500 square feet of space recently became available at 326 E. Atlantic Ave., she claimed it.
"Delray is the next big hot spot," Bolufé says.
Her two other Bolufé stores are in Boca Raton, one at University Commons and another at Mizner Park.
Racks and stands at her shops feature men and women's contemporary clothing, from pants with colorful patterns to button-down dress shirts. She also sells necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other fashionable accessories. People who shop at her stores are typically in their 30s, 40s and 50s, some spending about $50 on a t-shirt, others a couple hundred dollars on a whole outfit.
Her flagship store at Mizner Park in downtown Boca Raton is one of the longest-standing at the plaza, open for 22 years straight.
Since opening at Mizner Park in the early 1990s, Bolufé has remained successful by consistently offering quality pieces and by evolving its product mix "to keep pace with customers' ever-changing preferences," says Andrew J. McKinney, general manager at Mizner Park.
The open-air plaza opened in 1991 and includes shops, restaurants and offices. Lord & Taylor, iPic Theaters, Kendra Scott and other upscale businesses also populate the plaza.
Bolufe says she sees herself and her business not just as purveyors of shirts and dresses, but as a source for life-altering experiences.
"I'm giving them confidence," Bolufé says. "Their clothing should be a reflection of their confidence, not a reflection of their profession. Fashion is a reflection of how you feel. It's what gives you game."
Steve Spiro says he got his game after becoming a Bolufé customer about a year ago. Spiro divorced after 22 years of marriage and was used to wearing years-old clothes from Target, he says.
"I knew that I looked like a divorced old man, that's what people would call me," Spiro, 59, says. "I had very little style."
A couple of his friends also had divorced and gone through some sort of transformation, but Spiro couldn't quite figure out what they did. He wondered: Had they lost weight? Did they have plastic surgery?
"Bolufé," they eventually told the Boca Raton resident.
Each time he goes to Bolufé he buys items that he can mix and match and wear on dates or at social business events, Spiro says.
Now people describe him differently, not as a "divorced old man," he says.
"Hip," Spiro says proudly. "The last time I had heard that word about me was when I broke my hip."
Bolufé says she's confident about her new venture in Delray Beach and grateful to her customers in Boca Raton who have stayed loyal over the years.
Bolufé moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong when she was 4 years old and struggled financially growing up. From her mother, she learned the values of hard work and strong work ethic, she says.
"You can dream big. It is possible," Bolufé says. "It's an amazing ride. If you choose to do what you love and have passion, you will be happy every day."