By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
— School-age kids can grow a lot over the course of one summer. We’re talking multiple inches and sizes sometimes and keeping up with clothing all those lengthening limbs, newfound curves and expanding feet can be a daunting prospect for the wallet come back-to-school time. Forget trying to keep up with name-brand fashion.
The high cost of name-brand clothes, a still-lingering depressed economy and a desire to be environmentally friendly has some parents turning toward consignment and other used clothing shops to get their children the clothes they need as the school year kicks off.
When it comes to saving money, buying kid‘s back to school clothing at a consignment store can go a long way toward balancing a family budget.
North Tonawanda mom of three, Kyleen Martin said shopping at consignment stores is the only way she can afford to keep her kids in the name-brand fashions they desire. Buying a pair of jeans for $1 or $2 instead of $30 “helps us keep food on the table,” she said.
“I have three kids all in school and they’re all at ages that they’re growing so quickly,” Martin said. “It takes such a load off to be able to go to the thrift shops and be able to buy name-brand clothes so they can wear stylish clothes without it costing us fortune.”
Even the kids get into the thrifting action, Martin said.
“They absolutely are totally into it. They all hunt for their own stuff and we find some really good deals,” she said, adding that she can spend about $80 to get new wardrobes for all three kids.
Martin said she tends to shop at the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but Wendy Wellsby, owner of Lollipop Loft in the Town of Tonawanda, said her store also offers in carrying name-brand clothes, but for the younger crowd.
The store carries everything from newborn sizes to 18-20 in boys and 0-5 in girls.
Wellsby said that after seven years of owning the shop, she sees more of an uptick in back-to-school shopping at about mid-September when parents start buying more cold-weather clothing.
Unlike many other consignment shops, in which customers can bring in their gently used clothing and get paid once the clothes sell, Wellsby said buys used clothes in exchange for a credit they can use immediately in the store.
She said she’s noticed a lot of her younger customers are interested in bright colors and clothing styles first made popular in the 1980s and early 90s.
“People seem to be more geared toward two-piece outfits, and bright colors are in this year. Adjustable pants are always a hit item and skirts with leggings attached to them,” she said, “And the girls still like their dresses ... it’s just a given.”
On Davison Road In Lockport, Ruthie Rae’s is celebrating its first anniversary this month, and business has been booming.
Owner Pamela Weller said she’s a Lockport native, and started out collecting wedding and formal gowns and renting them out.
“I lived in Lockport all my life, and I know that there are people who don’t have a lot of money. They want to have a beautiful wedding and not spend a fortune,” Weller said.
Although she still has the rental business, Weller now does a brisk consignment clothing business, especially at back-to-school time.
“People are surprised when they come in and see the quality of clothing we have. I get Hollister, Abercrombie, American Eagle and other big brands, although they don’t hang around very long,” Weller said.
Beyond bargains, there are added incentives for shoppers at the Kids Corner, at 2808 Niagara Falls Boulevard, where owner Jennifer Miller caters to all kinds of shoppers.
For the little ones there is a playroom and snack. Miller, a former teacher for the Niagara Falls School District, says kids are her favorite part of owning the children’s clothing consignment store for the past four years.
“That’s kind of my nitch. I cater to the kids,” she said, adding that she often pops in a movie for the youngest shoppers to keep them busy while their moms peruse the store. “As long as the kids are happy, so are their moms.”
Miller offers children’s clothes in all price ranges, from brand names such as a Hannah Miller dress with leggings, to racks of clothes in her back room which are discounted 90 percent.
“My stock is rotated constantly,” Miller added. “Every month I throw a huge 90 percent off sale.”
For those shopping for older or larger kids, Miller’s location offers the added benefit of a new consignment shop that has opened next door, called Great Finds by CM Schulz. Owner Christine Schulz is a Niagara Falls native, who also carries gifts and vintage jewelry, offers adult clothing in small sizes to XXX sizes.
“I carry everything from Walmart to Abercrombie,” Schulz said.
Those who like to help a good cause while saving money can check out area Salvation Army stores or the Ladd Thrift Shop, which has been run by volunteers from Grace Lutheran Church for more than 30 years on Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls. The little shop, open daily except Sunday, until 3 p.m., has raised thousands for local charities.
“We get all kinds of shoppers,” said longtime volunteer, Janette Lemley, of the little shop which has a small kids clothing area in the back of the store. “It’s not real big,” she said of the kid’s selection, “but we do have quite a few clothes and we’re pretty selective about what we put out.”
“We get a lot of donations and we just put out the best because we don’t have enough space,” she added, noting leftovers are sent to local charities.
A recent survey on the Niagara Gazette’s Facebook page also provided a few ideas for back to school shopping. One mom wrote that she’s found some bargains on a Facebook page called “Niagara County Yard Sale,” and others recommended Craigslist (www.craigslist.com) for school clothes. Another shopper noted that sometimes the sales at major retailers are so good that a parent might do just as well shopping retail. So, as always, it pays to shop around.
Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes, and features editors Anne Calos and Michele DeLuca contributed to this reported.
LOCAL CONSIGNMENT/USED CLOTHING STORES
• Salvation army, 875-2533
• Goodwill, 447-0566
• Ruthie Rae's, 280-2287
* Smarty Pants, 807-2287
• Grace church thrift shop, 434-7010
• Goodwill, 438-4840
• Salvation Army, 728-7825
• LaSalle Ladd Thrift Shop, 283-9170
• Kids Corner Clothing, 694-4750
• Another Man's Treasure II, 804-0040
• AmVets Thrift store, 694-6290
• Goodwill, 260-1583
CITY OF TONAWANDA
• Attic to basement repeats, 957-3885
• Diva on a Dime, 260-1611
TOWN OF TONAWANDA
• Lollipop Loft, 693-2989
• Mom' N Tot's, 695-2220
• Goodwill, 844-8121
• Bumblebeez, 551-0695
• The Mill, 731-2150
• Sassy Style Consignment Shop, 731-2621