Second chance for the stuff in your closet
Economist Jim Gresham found his latest venture in other people's drawers.
He opened the Front Range's second Clothes Mentor franchise last month, giving women in the Denver metro area a new place to shop for products from the top names in the fashion world - and a place to sell their own gently used garments.
"I had never done anything with retail before, and I was not so sure about this franchise at first," Gresham said. "I talked to some of the other owners and it seemed like a good system. It's such a rare business that you buy from customers and they buy from you. The economist in me loved that."
Patrons at Clothes Mentor can bring in their gently used clothes and accessories and receive cash on the spot. Additionally, they can browse the store and make purchases at up to a 70 percent discount.
The Clothes Mentor franchise was founded by Lynn and Dennis Blum from Columbus, Ohio. The couple also created the Plato's Closet and Once Upon A Child franchises. Ronald Olson, who previously headed up Grow Biz International, came to work with the Clothes Mentor brand and take it nationwide.
Currently there are 27 Clothes Mentor stores across the country, including one in Fort Collins, Gresham says.
Gresham says the store focuses on upscale brands but will take any brand if it looks right, is in good condition and is current. "We employ experienced buyers, so they really know what they are doing and what to look for," he said. "Our focus is on well-known brands, and we never have inferior products."
Clothes Mentor offers clothing is sizes ranging from 0-26, as it aims to offer affordable name-brand products to everyone.
"I've had a lot of women who have thanked me for opening the store," Gresham said. "I think that is mostly because of the variety of sizes we offer. All of our stores are set up like that. It's the way the franchise is set up, to serve everyone."
Perhaps the greatest challenge of operating a store that buys from its customers is the inability to buy everything that comes in the door.
"It is difficult to tell people that what they have is beautiful, but we can't buy it," Gresham said. "I think after people come in once or twice and learn how we operate, they really appreciate what we do and know that they can trust what they are buying."
Clothes Mentor is located at 8601 W. Cross Drive in Littleton.