I lost a lot of weight recently (it’s remarkable — if you eat less and exercise more you actually lose weight). One upside of losing weight is that you have to go clothes shopping. So I’ve been on the rampage for attractive yet affordable clothing. If I lived in Manhattan, I could go to sample sales and get Prada and Gucci for peanuts (I bought my wedding dress in Manhattan at a designer sample sale 16 years ago, that was the last time I was this skinny), but here in the ’burbs you have to be more of a sleuth.
When I exhausted the clearance racks at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshall’s (where I did score a pair of black Tahari pants for about $20), I wandered into Greene Street Consignment on Nassau Street, where Nassau Interiors used to be. At first I didn’t really think it could be a consignment shop, which usually have the aura of the back of your mother’s closet under all the Christmas wrapping paper, replete with the bad carpet. This place looked like a Soho boutique — fashionable dresses on the mannequins in the window, well-organized racks well-spaced throughout the store, even the price tags had the snappy Greene Street logo and looked like a “real” store, not like you were scrounging through the $5 bin at the Hospital Fete.
Something else struck me too. The clothes were in impeccable condition — spotless, pressed. Then I started to notice the labels — good stuff, definitely A-list. I thought, this place is very Sex & the City, I could see the girls bouncing in here after Sunday brunch. Then my eyes lighted on the prize: a pair of cream linen lined cuffed Ralph Lauren trousers — in my new size. Price? 25 bucks. I’m so there. These pants are classic, classic, classic and they were in impeccable condition.
Later I got store manager Jami Shirey on the phone and found out the back story. Greene Street, which has four locations and is owned by sisters Lynne and Donna Mastrilli, was started 20 years ago by their father on, big surprise, Greene Street in Philadelphia. When the sisters took the store over, Lynne had just finished running two clothing stores in a mall and wanted to apply her retail and merchandising experience to the consignment store. Eventually they opened Greene Street stores in Bryn Mawr and Lambertville, and moved the Philly store to South Street. The Princeton store is their fourth store.
“They brought the retail feel into a consignment store,” says Shirey. “People are not sure right away, is this a consignment store? It has a really nice feel. It’s just literally the set-up, I think it’s just having it organized by type of clothing item and treating the clothes as if they aren’t secondhand clothing. Everything is looking its best.” Women’s shirts, for example, are all categorized into button-down shirts, dressy shirts, cotton shirts, and so on. “It’s like when you walk into the Gap and see a rack of the same type of shirts. It’s all about being organized and making sure that everything is as presentable as it can be. It falls into the category again of trying to make it organized for the shopper.”
Shirey says they are “very selective” about what clothes they accept for consignment. “We don’t want the three-year-old cotton shirt that is visibly worn. We want the items that are in very good condition, no stains, the thing that you’ve bought, worn once or twice, and weren’t even sure in the first place that you wanted it. People come in with bags of tee shirts — those won’t sell.” Shirey described the level of clothing they do accept as “the Gap on up.”
Designer bargains abound — an Yves St. Laurent handbag that retails for about $1,000 was priced at $495, “still high,” s ays Shirey, “but at the same time it came in in impeccable condition. We have a lot of Coach handbags, a few Prada and definitely Kate Spade. We had a pair of Prada boots that retail for about $600 priced at about $175. We had a pair of Tori Birch flats that retail for about $120 priced around $38 or $48 — they were gone within hours of having them out.” There is also a men’s section in the store, and a clearance section.
Consignors don’t need an appointment and there is no fee. “We go through anywhere from 10 to 20 bags of clothing a day, but that does not mean we accept that many,” says Shirey. A minimum of 10 items are accepted at a time and a separate contract is written out each time a consignor brings in clothes. Accepted clothes then go out on the floor about four weeks later and stay for 60 days or until they are sold, whichever comes first. The split is 60 (Greene Street), 40 (consignor). Shirey says consignors come from all over the area, including people who live in Manhattan but work in Princeton.
She has four tips for would-be consignors as they scour their closet for items to consign: the clothing must be clean, only one to two years old, stylish, and in good condition. “Even if something is in good condition, if it’s from the ‘80s, we still don’t want it.” They do bend the rules a bit, for example, “if someone comes in with something that’s one of the Target brands, but it’s cute and stylish, we may take it.”
All I know is that I keep getting compliments on my formerly very expensive Ralph Lauren trousers. Next up, pull all that bigger-sized clothing out of my closet and bring it to Greene Street. That way I won’t be tempted to fall off the wagon.
Greene Street Consignment, 162 Nassau Street, 609-924-1990. www.greenestreetconsignment.com. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 am. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.