Green Street welcomes women’s clothing store

Liezel Pimentel and Helene Nguyen, sophomores in FAA, look through jewelry at the newly opened Pitaya, a boutique originally founded in Santa Monica, Calif., on Green Street in Campustown. Amelia Moore

By Janice McDuffee

There are few places in Central Illinois where people can stay within six blocks of one street and eat at restaurants with food from around the world, get tattooed, buy books for school, work out, get a drink at a bar, and then walk home to their apartment. Green Street is one of these rarities with an array of businesses that attract the many bodies that fill its sidewalks. And the diversity of those businesses is still growing.

The busy street recently welcomed one new addition called Pitaya at 625 E. Green St. Pitaya and Paris’ Boutique, 202 E. Green St., are the only women’s clothing stores located on Green Street.

While walking down Green Street in the past couple of weeks, students may have noticed naked mannequins placed in display cases between Zorba’s and East & West Fast Food. Now, the mannequins are draped in fashionable women’s clothing, and the store is brightly lit with track lighting from front to back.

Friday’s opening was quite a thrill for Michael Mazor, president and owner of the Pitaya chain.

“It was a mad house,” he said. “The best opening we’ve ever had.”

Pitaya, which began as an import store, first opened in 1990 in Bloomington, Ind. Mazor now has nine other locations, four of which are located near other universities.

Pitaya offers a generous selection of women’s clothing and accessories which Mazor describes as current, young, trendy and inexpensive.

“The first time I came I was ready to buy half the store,” said Natalie Rinehart, graduate student.

Mazor boasts that the store’s great atmosphere and significant change in merchandise every week make it a unique and desirable shopping site.

“For a small store, we offer exceptional service, price and selection,” he said.

Mazor is aware of the other clothing stores on campus, including General Eccentric, 701 S. Gregory St., and Paris’ Boutique, but said he doesn’t think his store will affect them negatively, and vice versa.

“They’re not a factor to what we’re doing,” he said. “And I think the more you have the better.”

Mazor describes the addition of his store to Green Street as “bringing water to the desert.”

He believes it will move Campustown in a positive direction by providing students with something different, and hopes it will spawn even more interest in the area.

Kathy Bidas and Theresa Emmerling, both freshmen in LAS, agree with Mazor. They believe clothing stores like Pitaya give female students another reason to stay on campus.

Emmerling compared the prices at Pitaya to that of stores in Market Place Mall, 2000 N. Neil St., which is a five to 10 minute drive from campus.

Bidas thinks Pitaya will be successful because students don’t need to stray far from their apartment to get there.

“It’s a good idea because it’s accessible,” Bidas said. “And there’s already a lot of people passing by it everyday.”

The women didn’t even know about the store, but while passing by, the lure of its bright lights shining on the racks and hanging with contemporary fashion was too hard to resist.

Mazor himself offered assistance to his customers as they exited the dressing rooms to get a better look at the merchandise they had just tried on.

The Champaign County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau gives Campustown its own page for potential visitors to Champaign to browse through. They said on their Web site, “Alright, so it doesn’t have its own zip code, but almost! The University of Illinois campus is home to 40,000 students and everything students want & need.”

Most students who have cars may leave campus more frequently for the sake of variety. However, for the many freshman at the University who have no means of transportation other than the bus, some find that campus does meet the needs of their everyday life.

Adam Leady, freshman in Engineering, does have a car but parks it across campus at a friend’s residence to avoid paying for an expensive parking space. He finds that the campus has more than enough to offer, and dislikes the inconvenience of driving his car outside of campus

The extension of the fashion business on campus that has come with the opening of Pitaya seems to make the female students happy, based on their reactions. Their fair prices and convenient location have made the store a new favorite among women like Bidas and Emmerling.

“Hopefully people will be as happy that we’re here as we are to be here,” Mazor said.