Lost Opportunity: Junior League closes Mall shop

For 60 years, the Junior League's Opportunity Shop has offered second-hand clothes for lower income or just plain thrifty shoppers. But the shop's closing April 30 will force its patrons to look elsewhere for any "gently used" Gucci or out-of-date Armani.

Opened in 1932 by the University League (the local women's organization that affiliated with the Junior League in 1981), the Shop, says League spokesperson Kelly Seamen, had three purposes: to provide quality clothing at inexpensive prices; to be a source of income to consigners; and to serve as a fundraiser for the League.

When the store ceased to be a viable source of funds for the League's community service projects, Seamen says, it was time to close.

But why after so many years would the store stop making money?

Another League spokesperson, Christy Wenzel, notes that the Mall, the town's bricked pedestrian walkway, has increasingly drawn an upscale clientele.

Stores like O'Suzannah, where dresses can run as much as $500, and Yves Delormé (formerly Palais Royale), where 300-thread-count sheets can cost several hundred dollars, may have discouraged lower-income shoppers from coming to the Downtown Mall to shop.

"It was difficult to compete with some of the higher-end stores," says Wenzel.

Couple that with the fact that these days new clothing is available for a lot less money than it used to cost.

"You can get a new t-shirt at Old Navy for $5," says Wenzel, a fact particularly important to parents. "Especially with kids," she explains, "people want new clothes."

And Suzanne Aller, a local elementary school teacher, says that's true. She says that when her kids were small, she bought most of their clothing at the Op Shop. That ended eventually, she says, as some of the clothes "didn't suit" her increasingly choosey growing children. Now that the children are in high school, and since the purchases couldn't be returned, Aller took the opportunity to shop elsewhere, though she still made occasional visits for herself.

"I'm sorry to see it go," she says.

For those who share Aller's sentiment, the bad news is tempered, at least for the moment, by the steep savings the Op Shop is offering now through its closing day.

Wenzel says that the store has plenty of quality inventory that will be aggressively sold using the so-called "Dutch Auction" method made famous at Boston's Filene's basement (and locally at The Consignment House). In other words, prices will be slashed again and again as closing day approaches.

Besides its clothes, the shop's front windows had long served as a prominent showcase for the League's annual Darden Towe Park-based duck race fund-raiser, Quackin' for a Cause. Since the League owns the Mall building, assessed at $255,300, those yellow duckies will still have a place to roost this summer, at least, while the building's fate is considered.

 

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