Connecting to the community through recycled clothing

Annie Avantaggio is no stranger to consignment shops. When she was a kid growing up in Isleboro, she shopped the midcoast area thrift stores and consignment shops with her mom, who, Annie says, is “a big advocate of recycling, saving money and finding hidden treasures. She showed me how much fun it can be to find great quality, unique clothing for a bargain.”

img_0132Last June, Annie became a consignment shop owner, too. She purchased Consigning Women in Damariscotta from its longtime owner, who ran the store for 15 years. It wasn’t a long-planned career path for the 33-year-old, whose work experience included teaching, real estate and working at a local bank. But Annie found she was “constantly dreaming about owning my own business.”

When Consigning Women went up for sale, Annie jumped on the opportunity. “It didn’t take me long to realize that this was the perfect opportunity to stay connected to the community, while being my own boss and nourishing my creativity and love for organization,” she says.

annie-avantaggio Annie loves that consignment allows women to “look awesome for not a lot of money and help recycle in the process.” And while most shops put an emphasis on regularly changing fashion trends, consignment shops are a place where women can decide for themselves what’s “in.”

“It’s all in the vision of the shopper to take the clothing and put their own style twist on it and make it hip for them, not what the magazine cover is saying,” Annie says. “You aren’t going to see the same items or styles in the store next door. The clothing from consignment shops is unique and you can create a fresh wardrobe with great quality clothing for a fraction of the price.”

Since she took over, Annie has enjoyed the process of changing the store slowly to give it her own vibe. “I didn’t want to come in and change everything right away,” she says. “I knew it needed a fresh eye, some updating and rearranging, but I wanted to take my time with it.”

img_0135One challenge Annie has faced is maintaining high standards and quality for the clothing she accepts. “I have lots of consigners and I want to keep the quality up, so I have to make sure I am only taking the best items,” she says. “I also don’t want the racks to be so full they are hard to look through.” Annie has worked to clarify her standards in a written contract for her consigners. “I think the key is to be consistent, and give it time. The consigners will become familiar with my standards, and I will become more confident about my expectations and process for accepting clothing.”

img_0134Annie also hopes to stay connected to the local community, which she says is an asset in owning a small business. She and her husband, Will, who grew up in Damariscotta and South Bristol, have been residents of nearby Bremen for the last eight years. She wants to reach out to local businesses to offer promotions and work with the local schools to provide back-to-school specials for teachers and students. “During prom and graduation season, I would like to connect with students and families that might not be able to afford expensive dresses and accessories and offer them discounts,” she says.

Annie also gives back by giving away clothes to a local community organization that sends them to Syrian refugees and others in need.

At the end of the day, Annie hopes her customers “experience the excitement of finding that great deal, the treasure they just can’t live without.” She also hopes customers have a fun and relaxing experience.

“If they leave looking forward to their next visit, I am doing something right!”

Mercedes Grandin is a freelance writer, editor, English teacher and tutor. She lives in Brunswick with her husband Erik and their chocolate Labrador Fozzie. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, biking and exploring Maine’s midcoast by water.

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