MEDINA — At a time when many family budgets are tighter than Scarlett O’Hara’s corset strings, resale shops are offering gently used products for a fraction of their original cost.
So despite the challenge of a sluggish economy, Sue Mitchell decided to open 4 Ladies & More, a consignment boutique on the north side of Public Square.
With customers ranging from 17-year-olds looking for jeans or prom dresses to adult women shopping for something to wear to a wedding reception, Mitchell said she likes being an active participant in the recycle-reuse movement.
“I sell a lot of formals and cocktail dresses for weddings and proms,” she said. “Some of the dresses have never been worn.” She gestured at a frothy-layered black-and-white evening dress with an original price tag still attached. It hung in the hallway next to a slim, elegantly beaded number.
Shoppers pay 60 to 70 percent off an item’s retail cost, Mitchell said, while consigners receive 50 percent of the selling price.
She has set quality standards, accepting items in excellent condition, looking for lines like Coldwater Creek, Old Navy and Ann Taylor to stock the shelves. “And I carry a lot of original jewelry made by local artists. I like supporting the local economy.”
A former employee benefits account executive who spent 30 years in the health care field, Mitchell always dreamed of opening a boutique.
“I was ready for a change. This is my retirement career,” she said as she walked through rooms and halls filled with display racks of dresses, jeans, slacks, hats, shoes and belts.
She fell in love with the square and its specialty shops and pronounced it “awesome” when she came to town to have lunch with her daughter.
“There were people everywhere, and there’s always a lot going on,” she said, explaining that the square has a lot of power to pull people in with events like the Chalk Art Festival, concerts and the recent Ladies Night Out.
“We had a good turnout for Ladies Night, even though it rained hard the last half-hour,” Mitchell said.
“We get a lot of out-of-state shoppers, too,” said Connie Newbauer, Mitchell’s sister, as she manned the cash register. “Hilton Head, Florida, Michigan.”
Technology also plays a part in the positive reception 4 Ladies has received since opening about nine months ago. One shopper who was coming to town from Las Vegas for a wedding did shoe shopping via video phone, considering a pair of paisley print high heels with lavender overtones Newbauer held up to the screen.
In mid-April, Mitchell took advantage of a next-door business regrouping at its original location to expand her floor space. She blended two shop spaces into one.
Mitchell said she wanted 4 Ladies to have a cozy boutique feel, big on customer service, the way it must have been at the turn of the century when everyone knew their neighbors and shopping was a special adventure.
“Whether the economy is good or the economy is bad, people like resale shops because they know they can get a great deal,” Mitchell said. “People like a bargain.”
Contact Judy A. Totts at email@example.com.