Preloved Chica Clothing Boutique - a stylish, recycled-fashion store for families - opens its doors in South Tucson today.

The boutique sells clothing and accessories - mostly for women - at low prices within its yellow, lavender and white walls.

It's a funding source for Fortín de las Flores, or Fort of the Flowers, a social-services organization for women adjacent to the store.

Both are housed at 102 E. 31st St. and their courtyard will be open for community events.

The venture is the dream of four professional women - Maritza Broce, a union organizer and administrative manager; Lorena Howard, a union organizer and domestic-violence counselor; Leatanya Koppa, a high school counselor; and Rosalva Fuentes, a human- and civil-rights advocate for immigrant communities.

"Fortín is a grass-roots organization, and we accept donations and are holding fundraisers to support our programs. Eventually, we will become a nonprofit agency," said Howard, Fortín's project coordinator. The women will seek grants from private foundations, she said.

Their goal: The boutique will eventually sustain the social-services organization and pay for a full-time staffer.

For now, the women have become sales clerks. About 90 percent of the clothing, jewelry and accessories for sale were donated by professional women.

"All of us are learning from each other and support each other," said Fuentes, who will split her volunteerism between the boutique and coordinating social services at Fortín.

The financial backer for the boutique is Broce.

"I took the leap and brought my friends with me," the long-time thrift shopper said.

Broce learned quickly that her dollar stretched further at thrift stores, and decided to open up the boutique - a business she yearned to operate.

She and her volunteer partners saw the need for a low-cost, gently-used-clothing boutique on Tucson's south side to help women dress for job interviews.

The women's idea grew to open Fortín and offer social services to women in need. Services include referrals for housing, food, domestic-violence help and medical needs. Assistance is also offered in writing résumés and searching for jobs, and helping high school students with scholarship and college applications.

Other community activities set at Fortín include the monthly sale of organic vegetables, a domestic-violence support group for Spanish-speakers and art therapy sessions.

Fortín also celebrates the successes of women and plans to honor community leaders with fiestas, readings, speaking engagements and art festivals.

"Fortín is a place for women to encourage and embrace each other," Howard said. "It is a place to express ourselves through our talents and help each other."

Grand opening

Preloved Chica Clothing Boutique is having its grand opening today at 102 E. 31st St. from 5 to 9 p.m.

Regular business hours are Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

Fortín de las Flores, or Fort of the Flowers, is a social-services organization for women that is adjacent to the boutique, which supports Fortín financially. Fortín is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on other days by appointment. Call 303-8523, 795-3460, email or go to for more information.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or