Just a year ago things didn't look good for a section of River City Plaza on River Street. With Bon Worth and Dots closing their doors, many Waltham residnets speculated it would be the beginning of the end for the plaza. Since then, Plato's Closet and Play It Again Sports have opened for business. Recently, we asked Sara Coen Dash, the owner of Plato's Closet 10 questions. Many of the questions came from our followers who were interested in knowing more about the store. . We hope you take the time to read her answers so you can learn more about Plato's Closet.
We have loved being part of the Waltham community! There are not many clothing stores in this immediate area, so people have really shown their appreciation and support. Of course, it is a learning experience each day; this is all brand-new to us! I think it has been fascinating for our employees to be part of a store in its very first year.
2. Many people think Plato's Closet is a consignment shop. Could you explain the difference between your store and a conventional consignment store?
Sure! When people consign items, they leave the items with a store and get paid if and when the items sell: usually by check. With our store, we pay cash on the spot for any items we are able to purchase for our store's inventory. This means that we assume the risk if items don't sell or if we need to put items on Clearance. You don't need an appointment to sell at Plato's, and we purchase all seasons year-round. We just ask that items be current styles, freshly washed, and in great condition.
3. It seems like the merchandise you offer is primarily geared toward teens or twenty-somethings. Are you finding these demographics to be your customer base?
The teen and twenty-something demographic sometimes finds itself "in between" consignment shops geared towards younger kids or women. Plato's offers casual trends in junior and adult sizes: a really good fit for this age range. That said, we have found that people of all ages enjoy the styles at our store. Categories such as athletic-wear, denim, bags, boots, sweaters, outerwear and more really appeal to a broad range of people.
4. There's a focus on brand label items. Have you had difficulty in buying gently used designer label clothing and/or accessories?
We are constantly working to get the word out about our store since the concept is new to this area. That said, we have been lucky to see lots of great merchandise come into Plato's! This area is very densely populated, and we are surrounded by lots of shopping centers with amazing new merchandise. When our sellers outgrow items or feel ready for a wardrobe change, they bring all sorts of great styles into Plato's. Also, since we live in a popular college area, we have been fortunate to see labels from around the country and even the world.
5. For shoppers who haven't tried Plato's Closet, what are some of the items they can expect to find?
Our store is almost 5000 sf, so it is a large space that allows us to stock over 20,000 items at a time. Our prices are generally 50-70% off retail, and we carry both junior and adult sizes. Our items include clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, sunglasses and other accessories. Some of our most popular brands are American Eagle, Anthroplogie, Athleta, Charlotte Russe, Coach, Converse, Express, Forever 21, Free People, H&M, Hollister, J.Crew, Jordans, Kate Spade, Levi's, Lilly Pulitzer, lululemon, Michael Kors, Nike, North Face, Patagonia, Pink by VS, Steve Madden, Under Armour, Urban Outfitters, Vans, Vera Bradley, Vineyard Vines, Zara and more.
6. Are young men catching on to Plato's Closet and currently are there any neat items in stock which they may be interested in purchasing?
Yes, we have a great guys' section in the store! Some of the most popular items for guys include our ever-changing Boston sports gear rack; high-demand shoes such as Jordans, Timberlands or Doc Martens; our North Face and Patagonia picks; the flannel rack; graphic t-shirts; and Urban Outfitters new arrivals...to name a few!
7. Out of curiosity, do many parents come in and shop? Do they comment on the savings?
We see a lot of parents in our store! They seem to love that they can buy an entire season's wardrobe for the same price as a small number of items at the mall! Plus, it is less overwhelming to have all brands under one roof. Parents come in both with and without their kids. When they come in solo, parents will sometimes spot great items and text photos to their kids for approval! We also have a 7 day return policy on full-price items with tags and receipt. We find that parents enjoy shopping for themselves too!
8. Before opening Plato's Closet, did you have any experience in retail fashion? What was it about the Plato's Closet business model which made it attractive to you?
I actually used to be a middle school English teacher in Newton, and I also worked as a writing tutor for almost 20 years. My retail experience is from selling handmade cards at local craft fairs, open studios and small area stores for many years. All of these jobs provided great experience in working with both teens and adults. I was immediately drawn to the concept of Plato's Closet since I have three children of my own, including two teenagers. It is daunting to outfit my kids for each season, especially with styles and sizes constantly changing. I think that a Plato's Closet is a needed alternative in this area, and I wish something similar had been available years ago.
9. We're always promoting the “shop local” movement. Some consumers think Plato's Closet is a chain but aren't most Plato's Closet locations owned and operated by local independent business people? And, if that's the case, doesn't shopping in your store fit in with the “shop local” movement?
Plato's Closet is a franchise, and the parent company--Winmark--also supports Play It Again Sports, Music Go Round, Once Upon a Child and Style Encore. Each Plato's location is individually owned and operated, so shopping at our store definitely fits the "shop local" movement. I live 15 minutes away from the store, and I am the hands-on owner/manager for all of the day-to-day operations. Thanks to everyone who has supported us so far!
10. Here's your chance. What would you like to share with local shoppers which may encourage them to come in and see what Plato's Closet has to offer?
Thank you! Even though Plato's Closet is very popular in other parts of the country, we are still somewhat unknown in Massachusetts. We greatly appreciate any help in spreading the word to people who might be interested in trying out our store. Now that we have six months under our belt, we are really excited to partner with local schools and organizations to both support local causes and to provide opportunities in fashion, visual merchandising, social media and more. This semester, we are excited to be working with two Lasell College interns in the areas of fashion promotion and merchandising. We hope that people will contact us with any partnership ideas they might have. We are excited about all of the possibilities ahead, and thank you to Discover Waltham for this great opportunity!