Paula Johansen was living in New Orleans with her family when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Upon returning to the city after the evacuation, she saw the devastation left behind. “My sister in law called and said she had registered our girls in school and had a room ready for us here in Colorado,” said Paula. “Wanting to take our children out of the chaos and sadness of the wreckage, we accepted. Luckily for me, the company I was working for at the time was based out of Denver; they had an open position for me at their Boulder location. They said I was able to work there as long as I needed to.”
After a long discussion with her husband and children, Paula decided it was best for them to stay in Colorado permanently. “We saw it as a fresh start and a chance to rebuild our lives. Fast forward to March of 2019; I decided to leave my company of 18 years and start a completely new chapter.”
In June of 2019, BoCo Life opened its doors on the East End of Pearl Street. “Early investors in my store include my oldest daughter and her husband, my cousin, my little brother and my best friend from high school. We really are a family business. My husband comes into the store on weekends, my grandchildren are often around and you can usually meet the store dogs - Diesel and Breezy - when you stop by. My youngest daughter who graduated from CU Boulder is the new store manager.”
BoCo Life specializes in selling Boulder and Colorado-based apparel and gifts. “As soon as we moved here, we lived and breathed the Boulder community. With my youngest child attending CU as well, the theme for the store came together. We really focus on selling Boulder-themes items, from t-shirts and mugs to home decor and dog accessories. We are supplied with both licensed vendors like Champion League/Legacy L2 Brands, as well as local vendors like Colorado Aromatics and AtomicChild. We sell a little bit of everything.”
Opening their doors shortly before the arrival of COVID, Paula has come to be especially grateful for the strong sense of community downtown. “Boulder has a unique closeness with locals. The support we received from Boulderites that live and shop on Pearl Street during the pandemic is really what kept our doors open. In addition to a supportive community, Boulder has a dynamic energy. Downtown is always changing, and people both young and old can find things to love on Pearl Street.”
To support the success of BoCo Life, stop by the store the next time you are downtown. “Come in and say hi, and tell your family and friends about us. If you’d rather shop from the comfort of your home, you can order items online. We also offer gift cards and a loyalty program - perfect for regular shoppers! And be sure to follow us on social media (@shopbocolife) for sneak peeks at our latest apparel offerings!”
After their lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina, the Johansen-Riley family found peace and comfort in their new home in Colorado. Years later, they turned their Colorado pride into a retail business, with the goal being to form meaningful relationships with customers. Whether you’re a CU fan, a local or a visitor from out of town, stop by the store and see for yourself all that BoCo Life has to offer.
In addition to a supportive community, Boulder has a dynamic energy. Downtown is always changing, and people both young and old can find things to love on Pearl Street.