Pura Vida opens first storefront at Westfield UTC
Local jewelry company Pura Vida Bracelets has come a long way since its inception in 2010.
The brand was originally started by two San Diego State University alumni, Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, on a surf trip to Costa Rica following their college graduation.
On the trip, the two men met local artisans selling colorful, handmade bracelets on the streets of Costa Rica. They decided to buy a few hundred and bring them back to the United States to sell. The bracelets quickly sold out, and Thall and Goodman realized they might be onto something: they could support global artisans and also launch a lifestyle brand.
Since then, the wildly popular brand has expanded from bracelets to other types of jewelry, accessories and even clothing. Pura Vida, which translates to “pure life,” is known for its colorful, bohemian, surf-inspired aesthetic — something that’s resonated with buyers beyond its San Diego roots.
Today, what started on a Costa Rican beach now employs more than 800 artisans from around the world. In 2019, retail giant Vera Bradley purchased a 75% stake in Pura Vida. And last month, Pura Vida opened its first brick-and-mortar store at Westfield UTC so that customers could get the full Pura Vida experience.
The brand has been active on social media for years, racking up 2.2 million followers on Instagram. The goal, said CEO and co-founder Thall, is to transfer that Pura Vida digital experience to real life with the store.
“When you walk in, you’re walking into Pura Vida world, you’re walking into our Instagram, you’re walking into this experience where you can deck yourself from a toe ring to a bucket hat and everything in between,” Thall said during a phone call.
He said the brand has been eyeing a storefront for the past few years, but the timing never worked out. The COVID-19 pandemic also put any physical retail plans on hold. He said they also were particular about where the store would be — they wanted to find a space that was close to their La Jolla corporate office, but was also in an elevated setting.
“We chose UTC,” he said, “because we feel it’s not only the nicest mall in San Diego, but probably one of the top malls in California. Our customers are going to the mall, they’re shopping at Nordstrom, they’re shopping at the other stores in the mall. We wanted to be a part of that.”
Thall said that walking into the Pura Vida store is like “walking into a candy store of jewelry.”
There are floor-to-ceiling windows that offer lots of natural light. Black-and-white surf photography decorates the walls, which offsets the brightness of the products. The store is filled with bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces, in addition to clothes, backpacks, hats and more. Pura Vida recently did a collaboration line with Disney, which is also available in the store.
There’s even a 14-foot live moss wall with a neon pink sign reading “Pura Vida,” perfect for capturing those Instagrammable moments.
Pura Vida is also known for its charitable endeavors. With Charity Collection, the brand has partnered with over 200 charities worldwide and donated over $3.8 million. There’s a Charity Wall in the store, where customers can browse from 40 or 50 different collaborations where proceeds go back to charity.
The store had a grand opening party on Aug. 14 that Thall said attracted more than 1,500 people — a “home run.” Now the company is setting its sights on more retail stores up the California coast, and eventually around the country.
Pura Vida is located at Westfield UTC, 4545 La Jolla Village Drive. To learn more, visit puravidabracelets.com.
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