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By Sasha Fastovskiy

Worcester is not known for its tame winters. Walking into Shrewsbury St.’s 3-month old newbie, though, you’d never guess that. Cristina Deoliviera, president of Rio & Co., wouldn’t have it any other way. “I had a vision that when you come here, you’re gonna come for the experience. When you find clothes you like, you should get the same experience in the store itself,” said the Brazilian native. “Even the name ~ it’s easy to pronounce, and it makes you think of somewhere warm and happy. We brought the warmth here; the cold isn’t as cold anymore.” Forget De Janiero ~ it’s hot enough in this Rio.

The store itself is more South Beach than Worcester has seen in a while. Sparkly countertops, red, black, and white patterns, and flat panel TVs blasting high-energy music are sure to keep shoppers bouncing and dancing as they browse the one-of-a-kind pieces from truly one-of-a- kind designers. Her inspiration? Miss Baby Phat herself: “I’m like Kimora Lee lately. I like things big and shiny! This Brazilian isn’t calm.” Her big and shiny store is home to Brazilian (and butt-lifting!) Colcci jeans, French Rivaldi Jeans, lines from XOXO, Diesel, and Fossil, men’s lines, shoes, swimwear, and other south-of-the-border imports. “We have the same clothes as lots of places overseas. How can you build a store with just clothes from one place? We bring in all types of flavor,” said Deoliviera. “I like to think that Worcester is now ahead of the trends.”

Deoliviera has certainly done her homework to get off on the right foot. Although she came in without retail experience, she knew that she wanted to provide other people with the same clothes she was always looking for: “It’s hard to feel good about spending $200-$300 on a pair of jeans, or a nice dress, but knowing you’re only going to wear it once, and from a business side, that gets rid of your daily customer. Here, you spend that much and walk out with bags of stuff.”

The bags she refers to are also the work of intricate detail; they are outfitted with the store’s logos (waves representing the Copacabana boardwalk and the symbol for the Brazilian Sugarloaf mountain) as well as its colors. “We came in with a plan,” she said. “We traveled a lot to learn about the business, we go to Vegas, Florida, London. My husband and I always dreamed about it, but it happened so quickly.” Then again, she pondered, “It’s good not to think, sometimes. Otherwise you might not do it. If you love it, and you want it, it’ll work.” Worcester has been extremely responsive, even prompting her to scout for more locations for her growing company. “I want the person to leave here with confidence and getting compliments. I didn’t just want to start a store, I wanted to make a brand,” so Deoliviera has the beginnings of Rio Clothing Lines already in the works: tees, hoodies, and swimsuits.

It’s quite the family affair too, as got her entire crew together to get the business going strong. “My best friend Carlos is the manager and personal shopper here, and my other friends are models so they modeled for the website right in my own apartment, while my husband did the lighting and my girlfriend and I did the makeup. I dress from here too, and people don’t have to ask where I get it! Self-promotion helps.”

“We have clothes for all sizes. I love color, I love hot clothes. All I see when I walk into stores is black How can you go clubbing in black jeans and tees? We get new clothes every single Friday, so you can come in here before you go out on the weekend, and then everyone will be asking you, ‘Girl, where’d you get that?’” Thanks to Deoliviera and her vibrant vision, Worcester’s only answer will be “From Rio & Co., of course,” where the heat is always turned way up.

Rio & Co., 116 Shrewsbury St., Worcester
508-795-7575, www.rioandco.com

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