Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Thread

Kari and Rebecca, owners of 19th St's newest shop, Thread, call their joint venture "Two moms on a quest to find a solution for items their kids outgrew before they were ever really used." Boy, do I know that feeling. When they're itty bitty, lots of people are coming over to visit and you want to have them all cute and presentable. You're overwhelmed with being a new mom, especially the 1st time, and so you buy every.single.thing you think is cute. If it's a 1st grandchild, expect every.single.thing Grandma thinks is cute. The reality of it ends up being onsies covered in spit up and a lot of stuff they do grow out of before they ever wear it.

I know it's impractical to buy too much cute stuff for my kids, especially since they are boys and pretty much trash everything. I like to, though. They're just so adorable, I can't help myself. However, I have ended up in much the same position as Kari and Rebecca- with nice clothes in excellent condition that were hardly worn. I have found a couple different ways to deal with this, including eBay and Craig's List, the Just Between Friends sale, plus the Heights Kids' Group classifieds forum. I can sell lightly worn clothes to other moms and make a little money back to reduce the guilt of buying the boys new clothes that I like (while the choice is still mine!).

Clothes and shoes that no longer fit my boys can have a second life at Thread. These are items I brought in as a 1st time consigner. Can't wait to get that 1st check!

There is a huge market for lightly used clothes. Everybody loves a bargain and if you can get clothes for your kids that look great at a price that means no guilt, why wouldn't you, right? And if you splurged and bought some great things that remained in good condition, why not get a little of that back?

Heights moms Kari and Rebecca understand this cycle of children's clothing. Kari, as a mom of twin boys, had a store's worth cluttering up her Norhill bungalow. She started to think that she could resale them herself and maybe even start a business out of it. In January of 2010, she sent out an email to about 50 friends, exploring the concept of a resale shop. She was met with a lot of enthusiasm, but with two 18 month olds at home, she kind of stalled there. She didn't stay stalled long, though.

Kari and Rebecca have known each other since 2nd grade, growing up in The Woodlands and eventually studying Retail Merchandising together at UT Austin. After school, they both headed back to Houston and settled down inside the loop. Like many of us before we had kids, Kari and her husband lived in Montrose but they found, more and more, they were spending their weekends toodling around the Heights, looking at homes and going to the local shops and restaurants. Eight years ago, they finally bit that bullet and made the move. In the years Kari has lived in the Heights, she has seen how her own neighborhood (which is also my neighborhood) has changed. Her block was once mostly older home owners and young professionals. Now it is mostly families with young kids. Reflecting on those changes, Kari thought the Heights would really support that idea she had not quite a year before. There are lots of families and the Heights is also a neighborhood that thoroughly supports the ideas of both re-use/recycle and staying local. The resale shop had never left her mind and after 10 months of sitting on it, the urge to follow through won over what ever else she had going on.

In October 2010 the plan came together and things moved forward. The 2 moms set up shop in Kari's garage apartment and waited to see if it would take off. If so, they would keep their ears to the ground and would know when the right time and place for expansion presented itself.

The 1st couple months of "business" were casual- friends, family, neighbors. It was Nov-Dec, the holidays, and they were feeling out the market. As soon as the new year hit, so did Thread. January brought more inventory from post-holiday purging and allowed for regular business hours. Business was good and it looked like their concept was really going to take off.

Just a month later, they did indeed have their ears to the ground, learning Sew Crafty would be vacating their location on 19th Street, in the heart of the Heights shopping district. A space presented itself and the moms jumped on it. They were so excited to be on 19th, Kari says, because "it's a destination, not just for Heights people, for people from all parts of the city." Also, 19th's regular organized events are a big draw. "No other part of the neighborhood does that," she noted.

Sew Crafty's pink and blue store front was an easy fit for the children's clothing store.

Moms naturally know what other moms need, including a safe place for little ones to play so you can bargain hunt!

Sew Crafty closed it's doors on March 1 and Thread opened in its place on March 5. That's right, in four days these busy moms were able to transform one shop in to another. They did it, Kari says, by using as much from Sew Crafty as they could and generally keeping it simple. The bright and cheery colors of Sew Crafty naturally lent themselves to a store for kids. Kari bought pipe and assorted supplies from C&D Hardware on 11th and Lowe's, fashioning a simple but sturdy rolling clothes rack. The husbands followed up on Kari's design and made multiples in the back yard while Kari and Rebecca looked for a couple special pieces to add to what they had from the previous tenant. August Antiques had some of the great pieces they needed. With those little details and no real cosmetic changes to make, they moved in their inventory and had the doors open by March's 1st Saturday!

Kari, hard at work

Sweet girls' shoes- obviously not consigned by me, Rebecca or Kari, all boy moms :)

The store space, while perfect in most regards, was a little too big for the concept of Thread. Kari and Rebecca solved that by co-oping with a couple of other mom owned businesses: Sam & Lucy and Beanie's. Sam & Lucy offers embroidery and monogramming, plus personalized gift items. Beanie's is a children's clothing line designed by a Heights mom. Beanie's hosts trunk shows and has online sales, with samples available in the loft above Thread.
Personalized gifts and monogramming from local mom owned business Sam & Lucy

If you're in to traditional styles for kids, Beanie's is a locally designed and manufactured line of clothes. Started by a mom who was making her own kids clothes, Beanie's has been inbusiness since early 2011.

So far, business has been great for Thread. As they expected, local moms have been thrilled to both buy and consign at their shop. They were even featured (with another Heights area mom who owns a resale shop in the Galleria) in an ABC 13 segment about how resale is hopping in the current economic climate: video link.

Thread accepts consignments of boys' and girls' clothes from size newborn up to 5T.

If you're curious about how consignment works, it's so easy. You bring your clean, good condition items in and Kari/Rebecca sort, look for stains you might have missed and kind of evaluate what will sell. Leave them there, they sell them, you get 40% of the sales price in a check at the end of the month. If your items don't sell, you can take them back (to try another outlet perhaps) or let Thread donate them to a worthy cause. For complete details, read this page.

A very simple contract makes selling easy for consignors.

What are they looking for? Kari and Rebecca really wanted Thread to be an easy shopping experience for parents. They wanted to have more of a boutique feel, which customers think they've achieved. A lot of shoppers comment that they didn't realize it was resale because it's so clean, well organized and the clothes are in such good shape! To give this feeling, the store is looking for higher end brands if you have them (here is a list of preferred brands from their blog site) or bargain brands that are cute and current styles. People love a good bargain and getting a high end brand for more than 1/2 off retail is something most moms love. It is an easy, relaxing shopping experience that doesn't get hard when you get to the register. I wish these moms so much luck in their venture, although I don't think I need to. Knowing what families want and need is easy when you're in that place in your own life as well.

Consigned items ready to be priced and put out for sale. Because it's just the two of them working the store, Kari and Rebecca prefer consignment intake by appointment.

Stylish Kids' Consignment
321 B W 19th St

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