Local business Girlfriends Boutique creates lasting friendships and a sanctuary for women


Grace Huang

Girlfriends Boutique encourages customers to form new friendships and always strives to offer a fun shopping experience for every person.

Walking down the streets of Downtown Pleasanton, it’s hard to miss the bright pink sign with the bolded letters “gf.” Music plays throughout the store, and rows of clothing are on display, while the walls are decorated with encouraging notes. For many customers, especially young girls and women, this store, Girlfriends Boutique, creates a safe haven where they can come in, comfortably shop for clothes, and have a good time. 

Michelle Maldonaldo, the owner of Girlfriends Boutique, originally knew nothing about retail. She worked in high-tech, but she wanted something more. Girlfriends Boutique would become her calling as Maldonaldo found her true passion. 

“I was [working] in high-tech marketing since I graduated college. I just felt that I wanted to do something different. I just wanted to be doing something that gets me in front of customers and talking and hanging out, and providing a sanctuary for women to come and feel good about themselves,” said Maldonaldo.

Maldonaldo purchased the boutique back in 2015 with her sister. She now runs the store by herself while continuing to create good shopping experiences for her customers.

“I wanted to create a friendly atmosphere in a downtown area where customers could come and talk with my staff, laugh, and develop friendships. I knew nothing about retail, but I learned that if you truly put your heart and soul into something, you could really create and do whatever you really set yourself up to do,” said Maldonaldo.

When women come in, we help them feel good about themselves. Whatever their shape, size, whatever it is, we’ll always find something that makes them feel good about what they’re wearing.

Of course, the boutique has experienced struggles, especially during the pandemic. Maldonaldo found it hard not to have doors open for customers. 

“With Covid hitting, it was tough because we were closed. We could not be the sanctuary place that we are, so it was challenging. I also was worried if the store would be able to open up before the season ended because then I would be left with a lot of inventory,” said Maldonaldo. “It was hard, but we overcame it. We survived.”

Girlfriends Boutique remained strong and proved their title of Best Clothing Store that they’ve won for the past three years. Maldonaldo credits her staff for the store’s recognition. 

“I have truly the most amazing staff. This store would not be this store without my ten sales associates that work here,” said Maldonaldo. “When women come in, we help them feel good about themselves. Whatever their shape, size, whatever it is, we’ll always find something that makes them feel good about what they’re wearing. Talking with my staff makes them feel comfortable and at home here.”

Maldonaldo tried expanding her store through a website. However, she found that it went against her goal for the business. 

“I tried doing a website and found that it took away from what I really wanted to do, which is having a brick-and-mortar and seeing customers. It doesn’t fulfill any dreams or objectives that I truly have with this store. So for the future, I just want to keep the brick-and-mortar. It’s not to grow beyond these four walls, and I’m okay with that,” said Maldonaldo.

Girlfriends Boutique creates a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere with its pink decorations and racks of stylish clothing. (Grace Huang)

For Maldonaldo, running this local business has never been about creating profit. Instead, Girlfriends Boutique is all about fostering stronger personal connections and relationships in the community. Through the genuine friendships made in the store’s authentic environment, Girlfriends Boutique has become a place for women to feel good about themselves and be empowered. 

“We hang out, we talk, and we know a lot of the customers. They come, and they tell us their life stories. We’ve just made friendships out of our customers,” said Maldonaldo. “Women like to come because they know it’s a friendly, authentic atmosphere. They can come and just be real, be themselves, and we are here to support them. It’s not just a store where we’re here to sell. We’re here because we enjoy being here.”