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Asmbly Hall brings a new vibe

Photograph of Asmbly Hall's Ron and Tricia Benitez by Kathi O'Leary

There’s a welcoming new men’s and women’s boutique on the street, with clubby arrangements of chairs and sofas, record players loaded with vinyl LPs, spineworn books and old framed fashion spreads from Ladies’ Home Journal lining the exposed brick walls.

For Ron and Tricia Benitez, the husband and wife couple who own and operate Asmbly Hall, the transformation of the space at 1850 Fillmore — formerly a mattress store — was a labor of love.

“We were our own contractors — and we were our own painters, too,” says Ron.

“I get inspired by vintage and unique things,” says Tricia, explaining the everything-old-is-new-again feel of the place. “Everyone wants to find things that are one of a kind.”

The shop’s offerings include jewelry, footwear, backpacks and scarves along with wardrobe staples. The prices are inviting, too — with T-shirts from $34 and outerwear topping out under $200. “Sophisticated prepster” is how they define the vibe of the goods and the target customer.

“We’re not designers per se, but we have creative juices,” says Ron. “We know what makes people tick — and what looks cool.”

Adds Tricia: “We’ve been on the product development side, but we really love the creative side.” The two met a few years back while both were working at the Gap.

Completing their vision, they carry designers that complement one another: Knitted Dove, Bridge & Burn and Audrey 3+1 for women; Makia, GPPR, Scifen, Lifetime and Publish for men.

A hallmark for all is in the unexpected details. In womenswear, for example, a plaid shirt is tailored to be curvy; cozy fleece coats have great structure and accent buttons; a chambray skirt sports pintucking.
Ron makes clear that they’ve been inspired by their new neighbors — including Black Fleece and Ralph Lauren — but that they wanted to deliver something a little different.

He describes the menswear lines as “classic silhouettes with funky and edgy details” and points to a few favorite examples: a denim shirt with a hood, a striped shirt with an off-center accent pocket, a tee topstitched in contrasting colors.

“It’s a different point of view for menswear on the block — sort of ‘elevated streetwear,’” he says.

The duo, who live in the neighborhood, say they wanted to fashion their new boutique as a place they’d like to shop.

Tricia Benitez arranges the merchandise in Asmbly Hall's clubby new space.

“We wanted a place people would want to go as shoppers — to fall in love with the look of the things, then be pleasantly surprised by the prices,” says Tricia.

An initial order of business was finding the right home for their creation.

“When we first moved here from Orange County, we looked in lots of neighborhoods. But we felt more alive on this block,” she says. “We always went to this neighborhood, so we know a lot of bartenders around — and we love music, so we frequented the clubs here, too. This place was a perfect fit.”

The leap to store ownership was a matter of timing — “after three years of marriage and before kids,” as they describe it. “We want to be able to look back and say we did it, we took the risk,” says Ron.

Their risky business includes a lofty aim: “We want to bring youth and optimism back to lower Fillmore,” he says, explaining that the hipster spelling of “Asmbly Hall” is also meant to describe a gathering place for the community that brings fashion, art and music together. In time, the owners intend to host events featuring local musicians and artists.