It’s all about positivity at East Setauket’s new clothing shop, Soul Chic.

“We go into fitting rooms and we’re tough on ourselves,” owner Kristen Hoffman told GreaterPortJeff. “I want us to look more inward to see that our beauty is beyond the surface.”

Located at 262 Main Street, near the Country Corner Tavern, Soul Chic’s mission is to provide cute clothing that makes all women feel fashion forward as they shop together.

The Port Jefferson native teaches writing to students at SUNY Old Westbury, and her PhD focuses on the female voice. Previously, she worked in TV and that’s when she fell in love with style and fashion.

On top of being a mother, teacher and a new business owner, Hoffman lost over 100 pounds, but still felt a little insecure walking into the fitting room.

“When I combine these events, I think a lot about how society heavily pressures women to look and be a certain way,” she said. “If you want to be beautiful, you think you have to fit into a mold, preferably a 36-24-36 mold.” 

So last winter, while on break from school, she decided to create a boutique carrying clothes for her (a professor) and for her 15-year-old daughter with this mission: “To clothe women in not only fabric, but smiles, confidence, camaraderie, and empowerment. Soul strong. Soul happy. Soul beautiful.”

Originally Hoffman was set on a storefront in Sayville, but right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she decided to stay north and focus on selling her inventory online and through social media. During Phase 2, she opened her doors on June 24.

It took a few weeks to clean up the space, repaint the walls and rip up the carpet. She commissioned female artists and makers for décor, but added a few touches that meant something to her – like her grandfather’s typewriter sitting on a shelf in the corner.

“The community has been so supportive,” she said.

Ranging in sizes x-small to x-large, Hoffman plans to keep expanding down the road, bringing in plus sizes and petites.

“We have an arrangement of clothes that moms and daughters can shop for together,” she said. “We love meeting other mothers and daughters who shop together.”

Inside the store are colorful quotes and murals. The large sign in front welcomes customers with the phrase “Hello Beautiful” – a message of positivity starting outside.

She commissioned artists Danielle Gruttadaurio and Melinda Sarabia to decorate the once empty walls, and added messages from icons like Audrey Hepburn and Michelle Obama to help inspire women and make them feel confident while looking in the mirror.

“We have positive messages all around you in the fitting room,” she said. “There are positive messages on the way in and on the way out.”

Although opening a boutique during the pandemic was stressful, Hoffman is excited to bring a supportive space to women on the north shore.

“The best way for women to advance is by holding each others’ hands,” she said.

Soul Chic’s new fall hours are Wednesday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hoffman added that a socially distant fashion show, featuring her store’s clothes, will be held outside on Oct. 4. Keep checking in with GreaterPortJeff for more updates.

Photos of Soul Chic by Julianne Mosher