Ann Hathaway and the Clothes Horse
Ann Hathaway never stops moving.
She folds and unfolds clothes while speaking, gestures with her hands and moves to straighten any wayward purses. She stops to fix hangers sticking out at angles, to talk to women as they step out of dressing rooms or to pull an item they’re interested in off the rack.
Hathaway has been in the business of resale clothing for over 30 years. She’s owned two clothing stores, KidStuff and The Clothes Horse, and has been involved with the University of Oregon and a number of Eugene fashion shows.
The Clothes Horse is located only a few blocks away from campus on 13th Avenue and Pearl Street.
But resale stores aren’t anything new, and in recent years, resale clothing has been on the rise.
In an interview with USA Today, Adele Meyer, the executive director of The Association of Resale Professionals, said resale shop numbers increased 7 percent from 2010 to 2012 and that people are looking to save money in tough economic times, as was witnessed in the 2008 recession.
Buffalo Exchange, a chain that resells women and men’s clothing, began in a 450 square foot shop in 1974 and has grown to 45 stores and three franchises in 17 different states, according to The Association of Resale Professionals. It has a Eugene location at 131 E. 5th Ave. which is frequented by UO students.
For Hathaway, consignment is about more than clothes — it’s about promoting a safe place where women can feel comfortable.
“I really wanted (my business) to be a place for women to feel safe and have fun,” Hathaway said. “And be complemented by the environment since they come from places that aren’t real pretty.”
Hathaway says her desire for a positive environment stems from her background in counseling. She worked in Alaska in the mental health and counseling field for six years before becoming an entrepreneur.
Her boutique has slate gray walls with silver, clear glass and chartreuse-green accents, and countless windows bring in natural light. There are high silver-gray wing-backed chairs and racks of clothes organized by type, color and size. Jewelry glimmers from inside the cases and displays atop the counter.
Her employees laugh and engage customers with smiles.
“Not only does she (Hathaway) have an amazing knowledge of clothing,” said customer and UO dance major Dakota Bouher, “but she also has impeccable taste. She knows exactly what I’m looking for.”
Hathaway stands tall, with her back straight — her chunky jewelry, off-white cardigan and black blouse fashionable and functional.
“My grandmother taught me to sew, and after that my mother told me I was a clothes horse,” Hathaway said.
Customers recognize Hathaway’s attention to detail and her dedication to them.
On a sunny fall day, she pauses her restlessness to adjust the belt on a dress a young girl was trying on.
“That fits well on you,” Hathaway said, tugging at the hem of the dress. “It looks like it’s cinched too tight, though.”
Though her children are grown, Hathaway remains a maternal figure to many.
In fact, it was that same maternal nature which led her to becoming an entrepreneur and eventually, The Clothes Horse.
“I wanted to create a life where I could be more available to my children,” Hathaway said. “Where I would never have to ask permission to go to a soccer game or anything.”
Hathaway realized that some occupations wouldn’t suit that desired lifestyle. But then an idea hit her: a children’s store. Is there any kid who doesn’t want to hang around and play with toys and dress-up clothes?
Hathaway’s first resale store opened in 1984 and was called KidStuff. Eight years later she opened a second store that focused on women’s resale goods. She owned both KidStuff and The Clothes Horse for a year before closing KidStuff. She modeled the business after Nordstrom — making the returns easy and designing a place where people could have fun and listen to nice music.
Consignment, resale and thrift stores have been around for years based on donated goods and the frequent shoppers.
Britt Beemer, the founder and chairman of America’s Research Group, says the growth of resale shops could be attributed to young shoppers who forego the mall to thrift.
UO advertising major Jasmin Lillesve is one student who thrift shops. She cites her mother as the primary inspiration for thrifting, but admits that saving money is part of the equation, too.
“Honestly, it’s just something I like to do now,” Lillesve said. “I would say that my shopping in general has been put on hold by college, so I’m kind of in the Hunger Games — you know, like Effie in District 13.”
Mariah Melson, employee of The Clothes Horse and UO student, says that most of her clothes come from resale stores, particularly The Clothes Horse.
“I think even the bra I’m wearing is from here,” Melson said, laughing.
Though Hathaway has found success with the resale boutique, which has been around for more than two decades, she wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for her dedication to more than clothes.
For Hathaway, it’s about building a community. And through her business, Hathaway knows members of the community and has watched their children grow.
“Women who shop in here used to shop at KidStuff,” Hathaway said. “A women came in and got teary and said, ‘It all started with a crib! That’s how long I’ve known you.’ And now she’s showing me pictures of her granddaughter.”
But after 30 years in the business, Hathaway is looking for a new story.
“I’m really glad for the stories I’ve had, but I want another one,” Hathaway said. “I would take my small dog and go live near the ocean, teach English at a school, work one day a week at someone’s store.”
For now, you can find Hathaway flitting about The Clothes Horse six days a week, looking out for the community and her customers.
Only after a customer takes a cookie and coffee will Hathaway allow them passage through the store’s chartreuse green door — bells clanging as it shuts softly.
Follow Kira Hoffelmeyer on Twitter @KHoffy29
Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.