Port Jefferson small business entrepreneur Kristen Hoffman is all about staying “Tabu.” She’s just changing a few other things up a bit.
Recently, she renamed East Main Street’s Earring Tabu, now branding it as Tabu Boutique and offering a whole lot other treasures aside from earrings. And this month, she expanded the Tabu brand to Chandler Square, down on Main Street, opening the 1,900-square-foot Tabu Shoes shop.
Tabu Shoes is the village’s first shoe shop in years.
“People would come in and say ‘We didn’t know you have anything in here beside earrings,’” said Hoffman, who purchased the then-Earring Tabu over a year ago. “It’s grown so far beyond that over the years.”
Originally founded in 1989, Hoffman is the boutique’s third owner.
An English professor who has taught at Suffolk County Community College and SUNY Old Westbury, Hoffman has a passion for retail.
She started with a small boutique in East Setauket called Soul Chic. Opened in 2020 near the Country Corner Tavern, Soul Chic’s mission was to be an inclusive place to provide cute clothing that made all women feel fashion forward as they shop together.
Hoffman has carried that vision over to Port Jefferson, plus a whole lot more.
It’s because of her positivity and entrepreneurial spirit that the previous owners of Earring Tabu sought her out as a buyer. They approached Hoffman with a deal, but she promptly and politely refused. She had just opened her own shop and frankly, the price was too high for her at the time, she said.
The previous Tabu owners though were persistent and Hoffman admitted that they made her an offer that she could not refuse.
“They wanted to give it to someone who would do it justice,” Hoffman explained.
That’s why in January 2021, six months after opening Soul Chic, she closed down and merged her existing inventory with her new digs at Earring Tabu.
Hoffman said her passion for opening a boutique business comes from three areas: her interest and support of small businesses, the fact that she and her daughter are self-proclaimed “shopaholics,” and a bit of “lunacy.”
On top of that, she comes from an ancestry of entrepreneurial women. Her grandmother just happens to have been one of the founders of the Genovese drug store chain — prolific for decades on Long Island and New York City, up until they were bought by the Eckerd brand in the late 1990s and finally all converted over about two decades ago.
So retail is in Hoffman’s genes.
Some of customers started to ask, “What do you have for the guys?” It sparked another idea for Hoffman — a men’s fashion boutique. She originally planned to open a separate store for the boys, but that’s been put on hold for now when Hoffman learned that plans for a similar men’s store were already in the works.
Not to be deterred, and with an eye on expanding in the village, Hoffman landed on shoes.
With a sense of history and a little serendipity she launched Tabu Shoes with a quiet opening April 1 at 20 Chandler Square. Hoffman took over a space that used to be the home of Origin of Era. Years before that, it was Shoe Port, a long-standing and popular shoe store.
“There hasn’t been another shoe store in the village since,” noted Hoffman, who is selling women’s and men’s shoes (the men’s section is small right now.) “My goal is to grow the men’s selection.”
She likes her new space because of the foot traffic and the fact that very soon a new restaurant will be taking over the building that used to be the location of The Village Way.
Among the hot items right now, Hoffman said, are prom and wedding shoes and trendy fashion sneakers.
“Vintage Havana sneakers are very popular,” she said.
The business is a family affair with her husband Arnold, a U.S. Army veteran, and her son John doing the build out on both stores. Her daughters Nicolette and Ava also help operate the stores, along with her manager Desiree, who is in charge of both shops.
“I rely very heavily on them,” Hoffman said.
As a village resident, Hoffman is well aware of the dichotomy between Main Street and East Main Street.
“They are different clientele,” she said.
As such, her vision for the shoe store is a little different. She is a “90s girl at heart” and is aiming at the 90s aesthetic with blue tie dye, rhinestones and glitter as opposed to Tabu Boutique’s boho vibe.
Locals know about East Main Street and its bohemian coolness, but many day-trippers to Port Jefferson are unaware that East Main Street has such a vibrant shopping experience to offer.
“They’re missing out on the best stores in the village,” Hoffman said.
The grand opening for Tabu Shoes at 20 Chandler Square is set for May 12.
Featured image: Outside of the new Tabu Shoes in Chandler Square.