NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If you want to talk about a leap of faith, just ask Shannon Clemons and Julie Hollis.
The two are in the process of opening a brand new, plus size secondhand store in Nashville, catering to those who may not have as many options to buy secondhand as “straight size” women.
The idea is partly the brainchild of Clemons, a native Nashvillian with a platform for plus size fashion.
“I started making content, and with that came having access to a lot of clothing that a lot of people who are my size do not have access to,” Clemons told News 2.
Once she started making plus fashion content and hosting “closet swaps” with her fellow content creators and friends, Clemons said the natural evolution was to offer fellow plus size people a physical location to shop at like the rest of the world has.
“That’s almost nonexistent,” she said, noting that while the firsthand clothing market for plus sizes is miniscule, the secondhand market is nearly totally nonexistent.
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As a style content creator, Clemons said there are a scant few options for her to shop regularly in a city as large and as diverse as Nashville, and two of those are major supercenter brands. Even worse, the plus size sections at those supercenters are barely more than two racks’ worth of clothing items, usually tucked away in a back corner of the building past all the straight sized clothing.
“Even what is there is not a lot at all,” she said.
And that lack of options goes against the trend of humans in general, making an already stigmatizing activity—shopping for clothes while fat—even more traumatizing.
“The average—it’s like 64% or 67%—of women are a size 12 or 14 or higher. That’s more than the majority, yet straight size people have what feels like 90% of the options,” she said. “I don’t even know what it would be like to be a consumer that had so many options, because my options have always been so limited. That’s why we know that this is going to be really successful, because we’re giving options and creating a space for people who don’t regularly get a lot of options.”
Through good fortune, Clemons ran into Hollis, who already had a space available in the Donelson neighborhood on Lebanon Pike. Hollis was already working with vintage and sustainable fashion and was looking to expand into a broader market.
But that partnership is as brand new as the store is, according to both women. Hollis said she and Clemons met only a matter of weeks before they both decided to take the plunge and partner on The Plus Closet.
“The day we met, we both were like, this is very interesting that we both kind of have the same idea,” she told News 2. “I hadn’t verbalized it to anyone, and then when I met her at a dinner and she verbalized it to me, it was kind of amazing. This has come together very quickly.”
One of the key considerations in owning and operating a thrift or secondhand store is navigating the resale market and giving secondhand items the value they deserve while also remaining affordable for people who want quality items without boutique price tags.
“As we’ve been going and buying to fill up the racks here over the last couple of weeks, I’ve really been struck by what we know as the retail price of certain brands versus the quality and how it really fluctuates. There are some brands that are giving a much more affordable price point and giving really good quality, and there are some brands that are completely on the other side of that, where the quality does not match the price point at all,” Clemons said. “We are trying to stay away from truly fast fashion brands and are really trying to have quality garments but be able to offer them at a much more obtainable price point.”
Having the items physically available is any cornerstone offering, Clemons said, as many plus size clothing brands only exist online and don’t have brick-and-mortar locations available for their clientele to get the true shopping experience.
“Shopping online is so hard,” Clemons said. “We live in an online world. But to be able to not have to worry about shipping, to not have to worry about buying multiple items and hoping they get here on time and that at least one of them works and not having to worry about returning them, we’re hoping to be able to offer that to people.”
Clemons and Hollis are planning to use one of the biggest shopping days of the year as their first official day in business: Black Friday.
And so far, the online interest in the brick-and-mortar store is profound.
“We’ve had a lot of people that seem very excited about the concept,” Hollis said. “More than anything, I will consider it a success if people come through our doors, even if they don’t end up buy anything.”
If all people do is come through, see what’s available for purchase and spread the word about the store, Hollis said she’ll consider it a win.
So far, the duo already has a “great selection” of holiday offerings, from sweaters to dresses and skirts ready for family get togethers or special holiday parties later this year.
“Hopefully they’ll take some time out of their weekend holiday shopping and make a stop in and see what we have to offer,” Hollis added.
After the holidays, Clemons and Hollis said they’ll plan a formal grand opening with special events and refreshments. For now, the focus is on stocking the shelves and creating a fat positive space for those in Nashville wanting the same thrifting and boutique shopping experience as everyone else.
Some of those touches include seating options that are built for larger bodies and keeping rack spacing wide enough to not feel claustrophobic for shoppers.
“For me, it was really important that we have chairs and benches and things that fat people can sit on, that they can feel comfortable in, that we have enough space between our racks,” Clemons said. “You don’t ever have to worry that you’re going to knock something over unintentionally, which is something that every plus size person thinks about in every space their in, except maybe their own home. Those are really important things to me: creating an inclusive, welcoming comfortable place for people to shop.”
“We want to promote body positivity and loving yourself where you’re at,” Hollis said. “We have a strong policy on, if you’ve lost weight and you want to bring in clothes to sell, that’s great, but we don’t need to hear about the weight loss. Bodies change. What matters to us is that you’re happy with where you’re at, that you find something that you love, and that you tell your friends that there’s this great, welcoming environment where you can shop and actually find items that fit your body.”