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No Dad’ Brands

Call it fresh thrift, resale market, vintage styles or consignment shop the concept of cash for used clothes is wearing well in midtown Reno.

Rad Betty’s came on the re-scene first, followed by Vogue Exchange, Plato’s Closet, and now Junkee

Clothing Exchange. And each has staked out a unique niche.

Rad Betty’s focus is vintage. Vogue Exchange features designer labels. Platos’ Closet serves the teen market. And Junkee, latest to enter the fray, calls itself a buffalo exchange.

Junkee owner Jessica Schneider says that when the housing market went south, it was time for a change.

She’d been operating Decorating With Style, still open by appointment, but says, “Even though it was established and doing OK, I could tell it would slow down because it’s a luxury item.”

Anyway, she says of today’s dour economic mood, “We need some retail therapy.”

Junkee colonized the former RESCO restaurant supply building at 960 S. Virginia St. and shares its 88,000

square feet with Junkee Antiques. The Burner Boutique, which stocks wacky wear suitable for the Burning

Man festival, took space in the rear.

Then Schneider applied her decor skills to put a fresh look on ready worn.

“I think power of display is everything,” she says. “You never go to San Francisco and see a window undressed.”

In opening Junkee, inventory was the first challenge. Schneider ran newspaper classified ads and posted on Craigslist to buy clothes. “My house was full,” she says.

The ongoing challenge: “I’ve got to separate myself from a thrift store. I need edgier stuff.”

Junkee employs three, with staffing yet a third challenge. Young women are the natural employee pool; the young, however, lack work experience. “I’m slow to hire and quick to fire,” says Schneider.

The new store’s debut posed a wake-up call to Shelly Marcum, who had purchased Rad Betty’s in 2005.

She’s now embarked on a remodel of the 1,100-square-foot store at 141 Vesta St. and plans an increased emphasis on vintage. Marcum defines that as pre-1985, although purists claim vintage reflects the pre-

modern era, pre-1964.

“Competition is healthy,” says Marcum. “We each have our own niche.” She calls her clientele “Eclectic, like the merchandise. Hair stylists. Band members. Women who enjoy fashion.” And she offers a discount to roller derby girls who plan to wear their getup in the ring.

Vogue Exchange owner Elizabeth Weigel opened a 2,500-square-foot brand-names consignment shop over two years ago at 1527 S. Virginia St. She calls the inventory “hip contemporary fashion for the 30- to 40-year-old professional woman.”

And the new kid on the block has Weigel taking a fresh look as well.

“I’m constantly reevaluating,” she says. “Since the opening of Junkee, I’m upscaling the labels I accept, looking for hip clothing less than one season old.”

Plato’s Closet franchise owner Hillary Schieve opened this year at 1509 S. Virginia St. and employs 19. She describes her clientele as the 12-25 mall-based-brand teen shopper and says, “The kids are into it because this generation is into recycling.”

“A tough economy is fertile ground for upscale thrift shops,” says Schieve. “It’s been crazy. We’re blessed to do well in this economy.”

What sets these shops apart from thrift stores, say the owners, is a discerning eye when accepting inventory and an insistence on cleanliness. Clothes that reek of storage mold or stale cigarette smoke don’t make the cut.

At Rad Betty’s, with an emphasis on vintage, Marcum will clean, steam, or even repair items as needed. A seamstress is on hand for alterations.

But fashionistas are picky, and resale shop owners need knowledge of their clientele’s tastes.

At Plato’s Closet, Schieve has an assist from fashion headquarters. The Minneapolis-based franchisor issues a monthly trend report. Armed with that information Schieve says, “We won’t buy any jeans without back

pockets.”

And the franchise computer system lists 2,000 brands. “It tells me what to pay for it and what’s popular,”

she says. “It might say, ‘Don’t buy Ralph Lauren: it’s turned into a dad brand.'”

Vogue Exchange seeks brands such as Theory, Diesel, Lucky and J Crew. “I want what’s not available,” says Weigel. “What I don’t want is any label readily available in Reno.”

Weigel, who holds a master’s degree in business and is the founder of Area 51 Dance Theatre, says her work in the arts fueled her appreciation of clothing and costume.

Rad Betty’s owner Marcum says, “I read a lot of fashion magazines. Peruse vintage web sites. Watch old movies for the fashion. Read books on vintage fashion.”

But despite their disparate niches, all the shops rely on the current trend of eclectic dressing.

Vintage is a part of everyday fashion, says Marcum, and is now incorporated into a woman’s overall look.

She credits the Carrie Bradshaw character from the television show “Sex in the City” for starting the trend.

“Mixing all eras at once. The fashion industry no longer dictates where hemlines will fall this season. We want all the hemlines at once.”