July 2017

Maluka: Urban Fashion in the Heart of Old Town Bluffton

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Kim Block, owner of Maluka, in her boutique located at the Promenade in Old Town Bluffton

Opening a boutique is a dream for many women, but the reality of owning one is quite another story. For Kim Block, her ladies’ clothing store, Maluka, located on Promenade Street, in the heart of Old Town Bluffton, represents a lifestyle change, a business challenge, and another ball in the air. But it is her passion for contemporary style and her desire to offer women another choice that drives her to juggle it all.

Like many of us who live in the Lowcountry, she and her husband visited and decided to stay, packing up their three children, their careers and dreams for the future and moving here from New Jersey two years ago. “This was just another ‘why not?’ Bluffton’s booming, and it’s a great place to be,” Block said, thrilled to leave the “horrible winters” behind.

But one of the first things she noticed was a lack of shopping options for women in the area. Sure, we had outlet stores, but only a few specialty boutiques. She wanted to change that and set out on a specific path to do so.

Reared in a retail environment, Block learned a thing or two from her father, who owned Deb Shops, Inc., a retail chain that specialized in women’s moderately priced clothing. Block, who has managed several home-based businesses over the years and who currently operates a commercial real estate business (RLB Squared) along with her husband, had a vision of what the Lowcountry needed: a fashion-forward store to give Bluffton women an urban alternative to enjoy.

Partnering with a friend who owns the original Maluka store in New Jersey (in business for 10 years), Block got busy putting her fingerprint on the local version of the boutique. While there is some overlap in merchandise, she enjoys adding lines that appeal to her and are appropriate to the area. Popular brands include LNA (a West Coast-inspired collection of livable clothing), Current/Elliott and DL1961 (premium denim), Tart Collections (a California brand specializing in laid-back, chic styles), Sundry (active wear and coastal casual), Virginia Wolf (Block’s partner’s private label), and more. The buyers remain cutting edge, handpicking the best pieces from each collection every season.

A visit to Maluka in Bluffton is like a miniature treasure hunt. You’ll find plenty of goodies without having to dig through racks and piles to find what you love. What you won’t see is last year’s outdated fashions, overpriced ball gowns, or heavy sweaters. Block prides herself on offering on-trend, wearable clothing and accessories that women can relate to and afford. In store for spring and summer, you’ll find off-the-shoulder dresses and jumpers, rompers, contemporary denim, casual T-shirts, fashionable jewelry, and unique gift items. There’s truly something for everyone who has an interest in current fashion. Sounds perfect, right?

The Stiletto White Denim
Current/Elliott $194

Dariela Top in Black $138

Facets, etc Smoky Lariat $200


Alex Fray T Bangle $45

Hester Dress in Mint $174

Aneta Clutch in Silver $170

Facets, etc Silver Necklace $140


The Crew Neck T Shirt in Black by Current/ Elliot $158

The High Waist Ankle Skinny by Current Elliot $238

Vintage Glass Bead Bracelets $45 each

Salina Beach Tote $56

Facets, etc Button Pendant $50

Surrounded by popular restaurants, a hair salon, and other retail establishments that draw walking traffic, Block’s location is ideal. While not specifically focused on tourism, she has something to offer out-of-town visitors who might like to purchase a few casual wardrobe additions while on vacation or find something special to wear out to dinner that night. But her primary aim is to attract local ladies who want to look stylish and enjoy a unique boutique shopping experience year-round.

“The challenge,” Block said, “is getting people to change their habits to shop in stores instead of online.” But she has a handle on that, too. While her greatest joy comes from seeing her customers’ faces in her store, every item she sells is available on her new website (www.shopmalukasc.com), for ladies who prefer Internet shopping. Her automated system removes items that sell and adds new merchandise as it comes in, so it’s always up to date with the latest styles in stock.

One huge advantage of shopping in the store is the assistance of the Maluka staff. In addition to Block, you might meet Skyler Fountaine or Ansley Jones, employees who have been with Maluka’s Bluffton store from day-one. Often busy with the back end of the business, Block relies heavily on her faithful employees.

Don’t worry. They will let you browse. But when you need another size or help zipping a dress or fastening a necklace, they are quick to lend a hand. Of course, they will also give you the unbiased opinion you need when trying on clothes. Their no-pressure approach allows room for honest feedback so you don’t make a hasty choice or fashion mistake. They also have the style savvy to show you how to wear the latest fashions in a way that is most flattering to your shape and appropriate for your age. For example, a mother and daughter might buy the same top. One would perhaps tie it up in a sexy, sassy way while the other might wear it hanging loosely. Both will look current, tasteful and chic.

Block is committed to serving the local community, not only with her fashion sense, but with her benevolence and compassion for others. After Hurricane Matthew breezed through last October, she quickly rallied to help by starting the Lowcountry Strong Foundation in partnership with Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, a 501© (3) non-profit organization that supports programs and services addressing disaster assistance and/or emergency hardship relief. “Our goal was to help people get back into their homes who couldn’t afford to do it on their own,” she said. What’s in it for her? The satisfaction of giving back to local people and setting a good example for her co-workers, she said.

Block celebrated one year in business in June, and as Bluffton continues to bloom and grow, she is optimistic about the future of Maluka. Stop by and see what’s hot for summer.

Maluka is located at 5 Promenade St., Suite 1303, Bluffton. The store is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday and Friday from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call (843) 815-4674 or visit shopmalukasc.com.

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