Cost-conscious shoppers love store's reruns Eldersburg shop has loyal clientele SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

December 01, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A "Come explore our new low prices" sign and like-new nursery furniture, placed across the store front, pull customers into the Pass It On Shop.

"I saw a porta-crib outside last week," said one customer, dropping into the shop. "You still have it?"

"That item sold the first day it came in," said the owner, Louanne K. Calvin.

Mrs. Calvin took the customer's name and phone number and promised to call as soon as she stocked another crib at her consignment shop in Eldersburg Plaza.

Shoppers rarely leave empty-handed, said the owner. They find rows and rows -- all wide enough for a stroller -- of sized and tagged children's and women's clothing and everything the well-equipped baby needs. Second-hand, good-quality items neatly fill the shop's 2,600 square feet.

"Instead of buying a $60 blouse in a department store, here you can buy several blouses and still have money left," she said.

Like Stacy Williams, an expectant mother shopping for baby items, many customers say, "Why buy new?"

Mrs. Calvin started her consignment business, featuring children's clothing and nursery equipment, four years ago. With the addition of a women's clothing line last year, she became her own best customer.

"I never leave here, and I wanted some clothes for me," she said, laughing and modeling her "new" outfit. "I'm 'second-hand Rose.' Ninety percent of my wardrobe is used clothing."

Her merchandise, which comes from more than 1,000 consignees, is current season and style, stain-free with no rips, tears or missing buttons. Mrs. Calvin prices every item herself.

"My customers are on me like white on rice if I overprice," she said. "Every chance I get, I look in retail stores for prices, styles and classics."

Consignees receive 40 percent of the selling price on clothing and 60 percent on nursery items.

Every month, several items go on sale. Mrs. Calvin knows many of her customers by name and greets them cheerfully.

"Let me know what you need, and I'll let you know if I have it," she said.

"I like the way everybody is treated here and the selection," said Ms. Williams, who came in with a list for her soon-to-be newborn.

"I bought my maternity clothes here," she said. "Now, I'm back for baby things."

Seasonal maternity clothes, which women often can only wear during one pregnancy, are among her best sellers, said Mrs. Calvin.

Ms. Williams did some comparison shopping before driving down from her home in Westminster: "I checked area stores and got prices of what everything cost new."

She left with $20.44 worth of baby bargains, including a Kanga Rock-a-roo infant seat for $10. New, she said, it would sell for about $25.

"There's not a scratch on it, and the baby won't be in it for that long," she said.

Mrs. Calvin wished her a "speedy delivery" and invited her back for the baby's growing needs.

Toddlers' holiday dresses have been a hot seller all month, too. While every little girl should wear something special for the holidays, not every little girl's mother can afford the price tag for that once-a-year dress, worn only a few times, said Mrs. Calvin.

At the Pass It On Shop, a mother can probably buy that holiday dress and a few extra toys to put under the Christmas tree.

As 1-year-old Brooke Varney pulled sweaters and baby jeans off the racks, her mother browsed through baby dresses.

"We have been here a few times," said Stacey Varney of Howard County, as she rehung her daughter's selections. "I guess she is starting to know where things are."

For $12, she bought a designer red velvet dress, trimmed in white linen, for her daughter. Mrs. Calvin said it would cost about $40 new.

As Brooke chatted on a toy telephone, she tried out a nearly new travel bed that was "just the thing" her mother had been looking for. Brooke played happily.

"Sounds like she likes it," said her mother as she discussed price with Mrs. Calvin.

The Varneys left with the crib and the dress -- Brooke already has a toy phone -- and an "I'll be back."

"Did you get your check?" Mrs. Calvin asked another shopper, who had consigned several items.

"Yes, and it is already spent," the customer replied. "I'll probably buy more today."

And many of the items make their way back -- returned for resale after months of careful use.

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