For nearly a decade, Beth Joy has maintained a staple in the Fells Point neighborhood with her consignment store, The Fashion Attic. Before she became a boutique owner, she was a Visual Merchandising Manager/Executive for Macy’s for ten years.
“It was an awesome job at first, but eventually, as the economy woes got bigger, my job become way more stressful and not very much fun,” Joy said. In the end I was managing the displays for a 250,000 square feet store with one associate. Plus, [I was] traveling to store openings and revamps several times a year. I felt it was time for a change. To de-stress my life a little.”
Joy often found herself shopping in thrift, antique, and consignment shops. Inspired by her own shopping adventures and her love for fashion, Joy decided to open a consignment shop. There was no doubt that preparation became a crucial part of her success.
“I realize that people think that starting your own business is stressful, and it is,” Joy said. But it was a joy compared to what I was doing. I saved money for two years to prep. I wanted to save enough to be able to pay my first years rent. It was such a relief to not have to worry about coming up with the rent the first year.
Also, I told everyone that I knew that I was starting a consignment and started collecting clothes from them. I had a finished basement that I wasn’t using for anything, so set up racks to put the clothing on.”
In the early 2000s, Joy opened The Fashion Attic doors to the public for the first time.
“When I first opened, I remember the store looking so empty,” Joy said. Even though I had collected a lot of stuff from friends and family, it still needed much more. I advertised in the City Paper, put a huge banner outside, and people started coming in to consign. I didn’t require an appointment to consign back then. I was pretty much taking everything I could get. I still remember my first sale. It was for $12. It was so exciting.”
What was your biggest challenge as a consignment store?
“Much of [the clothing we offered when I first opened] never sold,” Joy said. It just wasn’t what our customer wanted to buy. Through trial and error we figured out what to take in and what would sell the best. It’s difficult sometimes when someone calls to make an appointment.
I’ve had people call and say that their 85 year old mother passed away and she had a bunch of clothes that they need to get rid of. I have to explain that I have a younger customer that wears more up-to date and trendy clothing. That I don’t think it would be a good fit for our store. That’s tough sometimes.”
What’s a typical daily schedule of a consignment boutique owner?
Tuesdays – do administrative things, organize the store, get rid of expired items, and put items on the 50% off racks.
Wednesday through Friday –we book about 7 or 8 consignment appointments a day. Between the appointments, we are processing the items, putting each item into the computer, tagging them and putting them out on the floor. We are helping customers, cleaning out the fitting rooms, and answering the telephone.
Saturday and Sunday – busy for consignment appointments so we like to focus on the customer oriented things on those days, as well as finishing inputting any consignments that didn’t get input throughout the week.
The Fashion Attic, a trendy consignment shop, has achieved many great accomplishments such as winning City Paper’s Best of Baltimore: Best Consignment Shop for the past six years.
“Career defining moments come whenever we make a new customer,” Joy said. When someone comes in and says, ‘I’ve never been here but this is my new favorite store now!’ It feels great to know that people enjoy shopping there and come back again and again.”
Beth Joy’s Advice for aspiring boutique owners:
Don’t give up.
Don’t let anyone or yourself tell you that you can’t do it.
Prepare for January and August, the toughest months for retail.