Celia’s Boutique in Downtown New Bedford is thankful for Buying Black

Mark A. Carlson

NEW BEDFORD — For 18 years, Celia’s Boutique has seen it all from empty downtown storefronts to the Buy Black movement. The one part that has never changed: the love the mother/daughter co-owners have toward their community. 

“I feel like our customer service at the boutique is concierge level,” said Tanya Alves, co-owner to the boutique, who works alongside her mother and namesake of the business, Celia Brito.

“It’s definitely a shopping experience. That’s what we try to provide,” Brito added.

When a customer walks into the boutique, at the corner of Pleasant and Williams streets, someone is standing by ready to offer a warm welcome, help assist with choosing a gift, putting pieces together, bringing items to the dressing room or just offering conversation.

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“We want to get to know who they are,” said Brito.

“My mom is a social butterfly,” Alves added with a laugh.

Tanya Alves and her mother Celia Brito at Celia's Boutique on William Street in downtown New Bedford.

Since 2003, Celia’s Boutique has been a staple in the downtown New Bedford area when it first opened on Purchase Street in the former Cherry & Webb building. 

“The energy in that building,” Alves said.” It definitely felt good to be in there.”

The idea to open the boutique came when Brito was working at the Polaroid Corporation when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was on the verge of shutting down.

Brito knew she needed a back-up plan.

Bringing fashion to working women

Born on Brava Island, the southernmost island of Cape Verde, Brito grew up in New Bedford, lived in Boston for 14 years, then returned to the city. Working in the corporate world, there was a strict dress code in her office.

However, living in New Bedford, Brito said it was a challenge shopping for appropriate attire that could also work for going out afterward.

Thus, Brito decided to open a business that brought more suited dress wear to the working women of New Bedford.

Celia Brito and her daughter Tanya Alves evaluate on of the newest arrivals at Celia's Boutique on William Street in downtown New Bedford.

Alves says she and her family were supportive of Brito’s vision. “She had a flair for fashion,” Alves said, adding that she remembered growing up and observing her mother keeping up with the latest fads, trends and styles.

Alves, who was working a corporate job at the time, assisted her mother when they first opened. “I remember thinking, there’s nothing in downtown New Bedford,” Alves said with a laugh.

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