Georgetown is an epicenter is D.C. for shopping, historic homes and dining...but consignment and resale stores?
In the past year, two new consignment/resale stores have opened in Georgetown, joining existing resale shops. Why this rise in eco-friendly, high quality and value-focused clothing shopping in Georgetown? Who are their customers? Who consigns at these stores? Georgetown Patch talked with the owners and managers of Annie Creamcheese, Ella-Rue, Second Hand Rose, Second Time Around and Tari to understand this trend and learn more about the business of consignment and resale.
You cannot ignore the fun windows and vibe of Annie Creamcheese, located on M Street between Potomac and 33rd Streets. I caught up with Founder and CEO, Garrett Bauman, by phone from his other store location in Las Vegas. Bauman explains that through careful store design, music selection and color palette, he hopes to create a contemporary "shopping experience" for Annie Creamcheese customers. In addition, consistent staff hiring and training is aimed at making Annie Creamcheese 'the Nordstroms' of vintage stores in customer service."
Annie Creamcheese customers are diverse, from ages 16 to 60 and include high school and college students as well as socialites and local philanthropists. They are a desination store with repeat customers coming from as far away as Indonesia. The store advertises in travel publications and the City Pages, but most customers hear about the store from word-of-mouth.
Annie Creamcheese's stock is divided between high quality vintage items (about 60 percent) and new emerging designer wares (40 percent). Bauman said he plans to increase the new clothing mix by adding emerging international designers who reflect a vintage or retro sensibility.
The move is partially driven by the decrease in availability of quality, affordable vintage clothes. Vintage dressing is the hallmark of a recent generation of women seeking unique, glamorous party dresses. So for now, quality vintage is not in circulation, but the look is definately current thanks to trend setters and young Hollywood.
This is Annie Creamcheese's sixth year in its current Georgetown location. Bauman opened at he same time as Intermix and in his opinion helped to signal Washington's move to becoming a fashionable city. Bauman credits a great landlord with taking a risk on a new business and sticking with the store as it has grown.
Krista Johnson opened Ella-Rue on P Street between Wisconsin Avenue and 33rd Street in the fall of 2010. Johnson's fun, bright store was designed to look like "my walk-in closet, if I had a walk-in closet" she explained. It also reflects Johnson's Middleburg, VA roots with former horse jumps serving as clothes racks and horse prints surrounding a comfy sofa and "living room area." Johnson hopes that customers feel comfortable and well taken care of as they shop for both consignment and overstock women's clothes, shoes and accessories from NYC. Brands include Milly, Todd's and Tory Burch, among others.
Customers at Ella-Rue run the gamut. Friends of Johnson support the shop and there are a large number of moms from nearby Hyde-Addison school who stop by after drop-off. Local college students have also found the shop recently. Advertising has been word-of-mouth or provided by electronic newsletters and twitter sites.
Consignors at Ella-Rue reflect the customer base. "We have consignors from "age 18 to fashionable moms to hip grandmas" Johnson explains. They are linked because they appreciate value and want to stay fashionable and maintain the quality of their purchases despite a tough economy.
Johnson only looked in Georgetown to open her store. After living in Georgetown for five years and calling the community "home," she focused on Georgetown and said she is looking forward to working with other P Street merchants to plan fun and fashionable joint events.
Second Hand Rose
Perhaps the consignment store with the longest pedigree in Georgetown is Second Hand Rose located on Wisconsin Avenue at P Street just above Gland Uniforms. This store has been in Georgetown since 1976 and was purchased from the original owners by current owner Lynn Boynton ten years ago. Boynton is a great source of consignment store lore including firsthand knowledge of the beloved Georgetown store The Pinacle and the days when Christ Child Opportunity Shop and others carried more clothes.
Second Hand Rose occupies cramped quarters brimming with designer gems. Louis Vuitton handbags, furs and Chanels line the small rooms of the store. Boynton explains that she must carefully edit her collection because of the store's space restrictions. Her customers range from college students to working women with a large number of repeat international clients. On my visit I met a pair of young women from Milan who raved about the store and explained that the concept of consignment shopping was very "American." Second Hand Rose is also mentioned in the infamous telephone conversations between Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky and is listed in the European edition of Frommers.
Boynton's consignor's are diverse and include many Georgetown ladies and Embassy Row clients. Boynton also will sell special items on ebay and occasionally will buy a well priced item for resale.
Georgetown has been and will always be the home for Second Hand Rose. Boynton has watched the opening of new stores, but "clustering" consignment and resale stores is good for business she reports. She is planning to add younger clothing items such as Betsy Johnson as the number of D.C. formal events have decreased over time.
Second Time Around
Second Time Around is one of 22 branches of a chain of resale stores. Store Manager, Durbin Clarke, wants shoppers to experience a modern, clean store that feels like a regular retail environment. Second Time Around is near Annie Creamcheese on M Street and attracts local students and neighbors as well as tourists who recognize the franchise name. While I was there, a shopper from Great Britain raved about the store and the quality of merchandise and shopping environment. Similar stores in the UK are not as "nice." Russian and a few French customers are also regulars.
The store carries casual and some more formal pieces and is a resource for graduate students preparing to enter the work force. Second Time Around in Georgetown has a list of over 1,500 consignors who often will take store credit rather than cash for their items. They seem to relish clearing out their closets to make way for a new wardrobe.
Further north on Wisconsin, between P and Q streets is another new consignment and resale store. Tari also opened fall 2010 after a gut-rehab. Owner Sara Mokhtari described the store as looking like "an upscale retail boutique." It is well-organized and features subdued colors with careful displays of top quality accessories.
Tari also carries men's items which is rare. Men usually wear out their quality items but Mokhtari has been able to secure classic sports jackets, slacks and shirts for her male shoppers. Women's clothes are designer quality and include gowns and sportswear as well as accessories.
The customer base for Tari is constantly growing and Mokhtari estimates about half are Georgetown residents with the remainder from other parts of the city or visitors. Surprisingly, only a small percentage are students so far.
Consignors are private, well-to-do residents who want to clean out their closets to make room for the newest trends. Mokhtari reports that they seem less concerned about pricing and more interested in ensuring that their prized possesions will find a good "home." So far she's seen no specific trends in purchases or consignments.
Although Tari is opened for business, look for an official grand opening this winter. Mokhtari also is in the process of significantly expanding the store to include a back wing and top floor for events. She picked Georgetown after looking at Capitol Hill, U Street and Dupont because of the amazing Georgetown building she now owns.
All the owner and managers I talked to raved about their customers and consignors. They explained that they love working with shoppers to put together a "look" or try out a combination. Consignment and resale shopping is for the fearless with an eye for quality and a drive to develop their own unique look.
Finally, everyone in the business could not imagine their store anywhere but Georgetown. As Garrett Bauman explained, he looked to start his store in Miami and across the U.S. but after testing local flea markets, Georgetown, with its mix of students, residents and visitors trumped any other city.