In Marketplace

You'll see many of the same names you see at the mall -- Laundry, Abercrombie, Ann Taylor, Laura Ashley -- but the items are priced at a fraction of the cost.

Clothing makes a U-Turn at new Tosa boutique

Wauwatosa recently received a Community Development Block Grant to rejuvenate East Town North Avenue, the corridor of retail, restaurants and homes that stretches between 60th Street and Wauwatosa Avenue.

One of the first new businesses to enter the scene is U-Turn, a consignment boutique at 6905 W. North Ave. that has a flair for fashion and a passion for apparel recycling.

While everything in the store is pre-owned, it is no average thrift store. You'll see many of the same names you see at the mall -- Laundry, Abercrombie, Ann Taylor, Laura Ashley -- but the items are priced at a fraction of the mall's cost. You're also likely to find authentic vintage items like 1980s Harley-Davidson jackets and dresses dating back to the '30s.

"Everything we sell is high-quality and either current styles from the last two years or retro," says Deb Kruse, who co-owns U-Turn with business partner Jess Brittingham.

Kruse says her concept is similar to the Buffalo Exchange, a store that helped pioneer the sale of recycled fashion 28 years ago and has since grown to nearly 30 locations across the country. Milwaukee is one of the only major cities in the U.S. without a Buffalo Exchange, and Kruse hopes to fill that gap in the market.

Anyone can consign through U-Turn, as long as the apparel is clean, pressed and on hangers with no stains or tears. The shop pays its consigners 40 percent and it keeps 60 percent of each sale.

"I have five friends who lost their jobs last week, so I'm offering to help them out by selling their items at the store," says Kruse.

While she admits that the economic recession factored into her decision to open a resale boutique rather than a new retail one, she also followed her environmental instincts.

"We want to recycle things. Why would I want to do something where we have to put more clothing out there when our landfills are full of clothing? Why not resell it?"

U-Turn definitely reflects the owner's eco-conscious values. The shop's bags, for example, are just T-shirts with the neck and arms cut out and sewn up across the bottom. All the fixtures and furniture are second-hand or antiques and Kruse has been actively recruiting local designers with a green niche, whether it's jewelry by Milwaukee's Michele St. Amour or purses made from pieces of recycled tires.

Kruse and Brittingham are also working on their own apparel line, for which they're using organic alternative fibers like bamboo and coconut.

Above all else, Kruse says, as an avid resale shopper herself, consignment just made sense.

"I'm into quality at a good price. My son is 7 years old but I didn't know about children's resale shops until two years ago. When I found The Playroom Closet I was in heaven."

But unlike The Playroom Closet, 9306 W. Greenfield Ave., which caters to parents shopping for their kids, or the number of women's apparel resale shops, U-Turn is for both men and women, ages 15 to 37 and features all sizes.

The store is open by appointment through April and is open for regular business May 1.


Talkbacks

jeb | May 11, 2009 at 2:29 p.m. (report)

We apologize for offending anyone by putting an age limit on the population we intend to serve. Our target age will begin with young adults/teenagers and go up from there. We are focusing on the middle age range of styles and fashions due to the fact that there are already several consignment shops that target the very young child or women (of all ages). We will offer fashions to men and women from teenage years on up. We have a variety of styles and sizes and hope all will feel welcome at our store. We plan to open middle of May. Sincerely, The ladies at U-Turn

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jjtops | March 19, 2009 at 11:19 p.m. (report)

I agree. I guess I'm 10 years too old to enter! (I'll try and sneak in anyway).

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lisagoo | March 19, 2009 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

Guess you wouldn't want to be 39 and shop at Ann Taylor!!!

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Genevieve | March 18, 2009 at 7:45 p.m. (report)

I am thrilled to see this come to the neighborhood. I do wonder why 37 is the upper age range though. Seems like an odd number to choose.

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