Winnetka residents Corey and Ted Widen spent 11 years sharing their insights on fashion with about 300,000 young adults by publishing Chicago Scene. But when declining ad sales forced them to stop printing and go entirely online, they adapted to the times by finding a new way to share their expertise.
In December they opened resale and consignment boutique My Mommy’s Secret in Wilmette, a place where price-conscious parents can still get their kids stylish clothes.
“Resale shops are really doing well right now,” Corey Widen said. “It's one of the industries that have actually experienced growth in the recession and it just seemed like a good idea.”
“It was scary to open a business in this economy.”
According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops 2010 Operating Survey, resale stores saw a 12.7 percent increase in net sales between 2008 and 2009, compared to 7.3 percent decrease in general retail sales during that same period. The stores also reported having more customers, more consignment sellers and receiving higher quality items as people who might have previously given away used clothing are now looking for a little extra income.
The Widens originally tried to buy Wilmette’s Barely Used when they learned it was closing.
“It just kind of spun from there,” Corey said. “We couldn't make that deal work so we decided to just do it on our own.”
They bought all of Barely Used’s leftover stock and put a sign in the window of their space at 1105 Central Ave. saying they do consignment. Word spread and the store was able to open with a fully stocked inventory. On opening day Corey said she still had a backlog of people looking to sell their kids’ clothes.
“I go through each item and check it really carefully for signs of rips, tears and wear,” she said. “Kids grow so fast I know my kids have a ton of clothes they never put on.”
In addition to selling used kids clothes from Burberry, True Religion, Gymboree and Gap, My Mommy’s Secret also stocks maternity clothing and designer samples from Florence Eiseman and Twigs and Twirls. Corey said economic sense has helped banish the stigma against resale shopping.
“I think it's gradually going away because shops like this are popping up,” she said. “This doesn't look like any resale shop I've ever been in.”
The Widen’s daughter two-year-old daughter Dorothy is a fixture of the shop, modeling clothes and tapping on a toy cash register in play area set up for young visitors. A TV plays kids movies and there’s a table where children can play games or flip through a book.
“I encourage people to bring their kids,” Corey said. “For resale and sample shopping sizes can be inconsistent. It's a good idea to bring them in and try them on.”
Corey said the store also plans to offer appointment times for families needing wanting extra attention to shop for special occasions like Bar and Bat Mitzahs, birthday parties or Sunset Ridge School’s Social Dance. She also plans to offer story times for kids. The Widens donate all unsold clothing to charity and Corey said she also plans to host shop and share days.
“It was scary to open a business in this economy,” Corey said. “So far it's been great. Let's just hope it stays that way.”