GLENDALE - Fashion may be fleeting, but the market for affordable, gently-used clothes has stood the test of time at Nearly New Family Fashions in Glendale.
Florence Gute started the consignment shop in 1957 above a tavern on Port Washington Road. The store moved to the southeast corner of Green Bay Avenue and Silver Spring Drive before moving across Silver Spring Drive to the former Crestwood Shopping Center, where the store did business for many years.
Gute sold the business to her longtime employee Betty Ackermann in 1975. Ackermann sold the business in 1991 to her daughter, Peggi Hoerter, who in 1998 moved the business to its current spot at 6803 N. Green Bay Ave. in the Glendale Square shopping center. Hoerter sold the store in 2004 to Nina Colacino, who had been working at the store since 1990.
Gute, Ackermann and Hoerter were known for selecting quality clothing, and Colacino continues to that tradition to this day. The store has several customers whose mothers or grandmothers shopped or consigned with Gute 60 years ago.
The business evolved again eight years ago when it took over a neighboring storefront, allowing them to double their footprint to 2,600 square feet. With the expanded storefront, Colacino decided to start consigning furniture and other household items for the first time. Household items can include everything from picture frames to tabletop air hockey to a $200 organ keyboard.
To consign with Nearly New Fashions, the clothing must be less than three years old and it must be clean, pressed and on a hanger. If the item sells in 90 days, the proceeds from the sale are split evenly between the store and the consigner.
Colacino said the store has more than 3,500 people consign items with them over the last 60 years. Colacino has been working with many of the consignors for decades, and they have formed friendships over the years.
The consigners and customers come in from all over the Milwaukee area. Colacino's snowbird consigners even mail items from Florida and Arizona during the winter months.
She said the key to the business last for 60 years is "good consigners and great customers."
"I do this because I love what I do," she said. "There is a passion here that every one of the previous owners has had. You get it in your system, and it's something you fall in love with."
Colacino said she meets with eight consigners a day, each of whom bring in as little as 10 items to the record high number of 150 items. She said she is booked a month in advance, due to the number of people who want to consign at the store. If a person brings in 50 pieces, she said she may take 40 or 45 of the pieces.
True to the "family fashions" half of the store's name, Nearly New Family Fashions sells clothes for men, women and children — although most of the store is aimed at women. The store has an extensive jewelry collection, due to the four jewelers and two jewelry-makers who partner in consignment. They also have shoes, belt buckles, pocket watches, purses and other accessories.
The items are marked anywhere from half to a third of the retail price, depending on its age and condition. As of the time of this article, customers can find a men's Claiborne dress shirt on the rack for $16, a Michael Kohrs polo shirt for $10 and a pair of Nike tennis shoes for $25. A two-piece Donna Karan men's suit goes for $50.
"The people that come in here want current fashion, but they can't afford to go to Boston Store," Colacino said. "They come in here, and they can get current fashions for half the price."