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New Charleston shop recycles clothes, revamps closets

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- She may have a Kate Spade coat and a Vera Wang dress on the display racks, just don't describe SavvyChic as an upscale boutique and consignment shop.

Deborah Patton made it clear that she wants her new shop on Quarrier Street to attract all walks of life.

She gestured toward a rack of coats. "There's leather, suede, coats for high school kids, business suits. I want everybody to be comfortable shopping here," she said.

Patton opened her shop Nov. 2 in the space beside the House of Luxe that once contained Oberlin's clothing store.

At age 52, she said she is finally doing what she has always loved -- working in clothes and fashion.

She moved to Charleston two years ago when her husband, Charles, was named president and chief operating officer of Appalachian Power. Her daughter, Danielle, just graduated from college and is living in Atlanta. Son David is a senior at George Washington High School.

"Now that we're stable and not moving again, it's finally time to do what Deborah wants to do," she said.

She worked in retail during and after college, and has helped others start up businesses. She was used to living in cities that had more than one large mall and lots of small, trendy boutiques. She said she saw a niche here for a shop that offered a variety of items at reasonable prices.

SavvyChic is unique, she said, in that it offers new merchandise carefully chosen on buying trips to New York, Atlanta and Dallas as well as gently used consignment pieces obtained in Charleston and eight other cities.

"We'll do closet revamps," Patton said. "We'll go through your closet with you and take the consignment items to the shop or will package the items to take to donate."

If a customer isn't interested in selling her clothes, Patton said SavvyChic will sell them and use the proceeds to donate to a charity, such as a women's shelter or food bank. The customer receives a tax write-off for making the donation.

"Our mantra is to give back," she said.

She explained how the consignment system works. Lady X drops off items -- clothes, shoes, hats, purses, jewelry, scarves -- and gets a receipt for the number left. Patton then gets on her computer and researches online sites to determine the value of the piece and to set a selling price.

Once the item is sold, SavvyChic keeps 60 percent and Lady X gets 40 percent. On items sold for more than $100, the split is 50-50.

She sends out checks twice a month to those whose items have been sold. A special computer program designed just for retail consignment shops "has made life so much easier" in keeping track of what item belongs to what seller.

And in cases of "absolutely fabulous finds," Patton said she will pay cash to the seller.

She considers the Kate Spade coat in that category. The same coat sells on several online sites from $1,200 to $1,400. The price tag on the one hanging in SavvyChic last week read $375.

"People come in and are shocked at the price point," she said.

For instance, she pulled off the rack a Trina Turk pantsuit. "Online it's over $200. Here's it's $69. That's reasonable. You can still look great and not go broke in the process."

Patton also carries vintage clothing, which she defined as clothes from the 1930s to the 1980s.

One such piece in the front of the shop, where Patton said she showcases her boutique items, was a soft faux tiger walking coat for $79.

She said most of the pricing is in the $22-to-$70 range. For items costing more than $100, SavvyChic has a 30-day layaway program -- yet another service she said many stores don't offer.

Patton believes her new venture complements the other nearby antique, consignment and vintage shops and hopes SavvyChic will contribute to revitalizing the downtown. She said longtime city residents have visited the shop and pointed out what stores used to be where and talked about how vibrant the downtown used to be.

Meeting those residents is what she likes about the retail business. "This is something I can enjoy doing and not think of it as work," she said about her shop.

SavvyChic, 817 Quarrier St., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Phone 304-344-9499; www.savvyischic.com.

Reach Rosalie Earle@earle@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.


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