A new second-hand boutique in downtown Livingston will be highlighting re-use in fashion and art while benefitting the community. The Curated Closet at 110 West Callender is a venture of the local non-profit thrift store Community Closet.
The organization's motto, "Where fashion meets philanthropy," only hints at their goal of providing essential clothing and household items at rock-bottom prices and returning profits to the community through grant programs.
From revenues at the thrift store and the adjacent Alley Annex, the organization now employs 10 people and has distributed over $200,000 in grant money in the community to date, says Executive Director Caron Cooper.
"We're really proud of what we've done," says Cooper, but securing additional revenue remains essential as the board continues to see an increasing number of community applicants for grant funding.
When Cooper visited a number of higher-end thrift stores in New York recently, she had an idea for a similar shop in Livingston.
"I saw how beautiful second-hand can be in a retail setting," she says.
The proposed boutique would require a larger retail space and Cooper said the current location of the Community Closet at 416 East Park Street continues to be ideal with drive-up donation drop-off and ample parking.
The Community Closet was saving items for a fashion show fund raiser when the central downtown location on Callender Street became available. Within 17 days, employees had refurbished the former Grace Studios salon and The Curated Closet (C2R3) was open for business.
The inventory is scant and specially-chosen, less than two percent of the Community Closet stock at best: vintage gowns and cowboy boots, sequinned tops and purple tuxedo shirts with frilled collars. Among the fashion items being hand-picked from Community Closet racks by stylist Bridget Kelly rest curios and vintage objects of varied usefulness and nostalgia such as a 50s-era Fly Tying kit or pairs of horn-rimmed glasses clipped to hanging chains with close-pins. A multi-tiered hand-made cabinet sits ready to display artisan and antique jewelry.
Cooper says the prevailing theme is "Livingston's Past Present and Future."
She indicates a continuing vision for the boutique to “R3” or re-use, recycle and reinvest and will be asking local artisans who re-use materials in crafting art or jewelry to sell in the gallery setting.
As far as the variety of donations dropped daily at the Park Street store, "We have things people are willing to pay more for," says Cooper.
“We can honor the donors more," Cooper adds, indicating fair market value could now be noted in many receipts for donations.
She says many Community Closet shoppers are also ebay sellers, and the new boutique hopes to benefit from some of the profit margin on these items rather than watch them leave the store for relatively minimal prices.
"The goal of the project is to raise more money for the thrift store," says Cooper.
At least 50 percent of the inventory in C2R3 is from the racks in the main store, items shoppers have access to at Community Closet. Items are cleaned and pressed and presented according to colors and themes. There are fashions and accessories for women and men, and even a few for children along with unique curios.
"It's not tea-pots and China," says Cooper, "It's a quirky selection with a local feel."
Cooper says the shop will also offer a concierge service, "If you want a vintage cowboy boot in a size 7, we can look for it."
The Curated Closet opened for business March 3, and will be open thereafter Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Business hours should be increasing to five or six days a week in May.
"We have an extremely cautious business plan," says Cooper, but adds they do hope to eventually employ at least one additional employee at the Park Street thrift shop as a Community Closet staffer will be moving to the new location.
The new location will be retail-only specific donations for the Curated Closet can be dropped at the Community Closet. Call 222-6200 for more information on either the Community Closet or the new C2R3 boutique.