Daytime-tv star lauralee bell, who plays cricket blair on

'the young and the restless,' has opened a boutique near

the beverly center that's attracting notice in hollywood

When Lauralee Bell was growing up in Chicago, she liked to rearrange her closet, mixing and matching clothes.

When she grew up and became a star on "The Young and the Restless" (she plays attorney Cricket Blair), her love of fashion translated to shopping big time. One of her favorite stores was a boutique run by Shauna Stein in the Beverly Center.

"Shauna used to say I was her best client," said the 31-year-old Bell, who last fall opened her own boutique, called On Beverly Blvd., just across the street from Beverly Center.

Stein is now Bell's buyer, and the two are in negotiations to form a partnership. Both believe that success lies in creating a one-stop shop where women can buy shoes, bags, skirts, blouses, jeans, evening gowns and jewelry.

"Shauna's idea is for the complete look, and you want to make everything easy for the shopper," Bell said.

By featuring a diverse collection of designers, especially those who are up-and-coming, Bell believes she has an advantage over the big design-house shops on Rodeo Drive, where customers will often buy similar gowns (and show up at the same event looking like twins).

Looking for buzz

None of which, of course, is as easy as it looks.

"It's always tough to open an upscale store," said Richard Giss, a partner in the retail service group of Deloitte & Touche. "You have to have the right mix of labels, the right location and ambience. You also have to have service and buzz. People have to be talking about you."

In that regard, Bell's Hollywood connections are a major asset, especially with the younger soap-opera stars, who often set trends before better-known film stars. A number of those soap actresses already frequent the shop, along with more established celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Perkins, Brooke Shields and Minnie Driver.

That buzz is also being picked up by stylists like Cary Fetman, who selects clothes for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kate Mulgrew and Courtney Thorne-Smith, among others.

"As a stylist you are always looking for something unique, and On Beverly has so many one-of-a-kind things," Fetman said. "The minute you walk into the store, they understand what you need. They have a sense of style. They don't try to clone other designers."

With nearly $1 million of her own money, Bell has filled the airy, 4,000-square-foot shop with clothes from hot designers like Alexander McQueen and Narcisco Rodriguez. Also featured are the fashions of Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Bluemarine, Alberta Ferretti and Roberto Cavalli.

Prices are neither inexpensive nor outrageous. A Dolce & Gabbana sheer top is $130; silk Gigli blouses are $210; leather pants are $795. A full-length, black velvet coat with a rabbit collar was recently on sale for $1,170, down from $2,000.

On Beverly averaged more than $135,000 in monthly sales since opening last fall, and Bell estimates that the shop will generate $3.5 million this year.

Location. location, location

One challenge will be the location outside Beverly Hills.

"It will make it more difficult," said Ron Michaels, manager of the Louis Vuitton store in Beverly Hills and president of the Rodeo Drive Committee. "You are away from all the similar businesses. There is also a risk to opening a business like this unless you have a giant name behind you. You have to have a well-known brand."

But On Beverly is located near Robertson Boulevard, which has become a hotspot for hipsters. Beverly Boulevard has also become a street known as the location of designers like Richard Tyler.

"They know what I like and have great taste," said Nancy Moonves, the wife of CBS Television President Les Moonves. "If something doesn't look good on me, they tell me, or recommend waiting for something that's better The parking is great, too. Shopping on Rodeo Drive can be a nightmare."

Bell's decision to branch into retailing is also a way to hedge her bets. Daytime soap operas have slipped in the ratings, although "The Young and the Restless" (created by her parents, Bill Bell and Lee Phillip Bell) remains one of the top serial dramas on network television. Bell sees herself staying on the soap opera for another year at the most.

She conceded that opening her own boutique is scary.

"It hit me when we were going through the contracts," she said. "If we fold or if we go under, my name is on the line. It's stressful and you worry at night. Did we have a good day or did we have a slow day?"

Acting is a lot easier than retailing, she said. "I can control a good performance. But I can't control whether a customer will come into the store."

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