ECO-FRIENDLY SHOPPING

BY KELLY RAE SMITH | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Amanda Joseph smiles as she shows off a new-to-her set of bangle bracelets to Ann Shimer, her sister-in-business for the past four years. The jewelry, along with nearly everything else the two women wear, comes directly from their treasure trove, a shop called Consigning Women.

Shimer bought the business, which is located in the Avondale neighborhood of West Ashley, in 1994. By 2010, she decided to expand to Mount Pleasant, opening a sister shop, Consigning Women & Men, on Johnnie Dodds Boulevard. Then, in January of 2015, Joseph, who’d managed the Avondale shop for two years, bought that original location. She has been in cahoots with Shimer ever since.

“I had no clue that fashion was my passion until I began working for Ann,” says Joseph. “I learned so much about fashion and designers; I fell in love with the concept of consigning.”

The shops and their respective personalities—Mount Pleasant’s conservative vibe, Avondale’s young and trendy one—have grown with each passing year. But Shimer says folks were baffled about her new business venture. “When I opened, friends of mine were like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna do what? You’re going to have a store that sells used clothing?’” she says. “But then they walked in and realized, ‘Oh, I can get a Chanel bag!’”

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Shimer admits that initially she was overwhelmed by the benefits of having relatively inexpensive, top-of-the-line clothing and accessories at her fingertips. “I couldn’t afford these killer brands before, but now I can pay a consignment price for them,” she says. “It’s a good way to afford merchandise that is so off-the-charts expensive you could never pay for it. I’m just not willing to pay $3,000 for a bag. But, you know, I’ll buy a $3,000 bag for $200 at a consignment store in a minute.”

The shops’ inventories are neatly organized by color and change every day, with brands like Talbots, Chico’s, Vineyard Vines, J.Crew, Lilly Pulitzer and Banana Republic, in constant rotation. “One major difference between consignment and retail,” Shimer says, “is our fast turnover.”

Merchandise that has not sold in 60 days is donated. The Avondale store donates twice a week to local organization Abraham’s Closet, while the Mount Pleasant location gives to East Cooper Community Outreach and Dress for Success. Consigning Women & Men is also a drop-off spot for Dress for Success. “So if you want to donate and not consign, you can bring items here and we’ll give you a tax receipt,” Shimer says.

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As for where the stock comes from in the first place, both shops deal with local individuals looking to clear space in their closets in exchange for cash. “We’re offering a service,” Shimer says. “People can bring in possessions they don’t love anymore as long as they’re current styles, clean and delivered on hangers.”

What Shimer and Joseph love most about the business is its sense of community. “We have so many regular customers and consignors that it becomes very family-like,” Joseph says. “You begin to know and care about customers and what’s going on in their lives, and they care about what’s going on in our lives as well.”

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As the population has grown more eco-conscious, both stores have become a middleman for locals who want to recycle more than just bottles and cans. Shimer, who first noticed this shift in consciousness 10 to 15 years ago, says that recycling is more important to locals than ever before. For their part, Joseph and Shimer are glad to help people declutter and purchase items at great prices.

“We’re looking for stylish, classic clothing that people enjoy wearing, clothing that makes them feel good and brings them joy,” Shimer says. “In our stores, we’ve already picked through the good and the bad for customers. We only offer the best. We’ve done half the shopping for them.”

Visit them online at consigningwomensc.com.

Kelly Rae Smith is a freelance writer, editor and vintage seller based in West Ashley.