Custom Search

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The best store for the frugal and fabulous is in my town

When I posted my musings on the joy of thrift stores, I got an envy-inducing comment from Duchesse, of the blog Passage des Perles. She wrote, ” I buy at a shop where the owner gets boxes of high end clothes (used and not) from Europe, Japan and the film industry. Not thrift but amazing quality and prices.” If I ever go to Toronto, you can bet I’ll beg for the address of this treasure trove.

Perhaps Canada has a plethora of amazing places. My mother-in-law lived in Montreal for a year in a job exchange, and on one of their jaunts outside the city, she and my father-in-law discovered the little shop where all the expensive leftover shoes of a Montreal department store were sent to sell at incredible bargain prices.

But then it occurred to me that I have an amazing place in my town. So I will proclaim its virtues (or is it vices?) here, just in case any of my readers happen to wend their way to my neck of the woods. And people, if you haven’t been to New Orleans, you should really come visit!

The best store in the whole world is in my town. How did I get so lucky? It has the unprepossessing name: United Apparel Liquidators. Even I, who grew up scrounging through Loehmann’s (in the good old days) and scruffy venues with my talented parents, would never have set foot into a place with that name. What a mistake!

This is a store so good that no one told me about it. My colleagues shopped there, but when I asked them where they purchased something, they said “I can’t remember.” Then the proprietor of a gift shop, where I was browsing with my mother-in-law, mentioned it, and off we went. It was like entering the Garden of Eden. Then, racks of clothing from Bergdorf Goodman, 80% off. Racks of clothing from upscale boutiques hither and yon, 80% off. Then also the overstocks from classic and fashion-forward labels.

I don’t like to shop for its own sake, but, when my children were little, I used to go to the New Orleans store on the way home from our weekly trips to the wonderful Audubon Zoo, Aqaurium of the Americas, or Children’s Museum. There was a Baskin-Robbins next door. For my children this became a treat: I could shop while they got ice cream. We would all say: “Let’s go liquidate!”

Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed at least one of the stores. But I hadn’t been for a while anyway. Once the children were older and we weren’t making our weekly visits to New Orleans, Mr. DFS and I tended to stay home on weekends and putter about.

Shortly after Katrina, I saw a notice in the paper: the Liquidator was opening in Covington! So I took my now old-enough daughter to visit this place. All she could remember about it was the ice cream cones that marked our visits. There was Melody, the owner, with her flaming red hair and extreme fashion. She even remembered me.

My daughter and I go now and then. Sometimes we buy a little, sometimes a medium amount. The items in my store range from $4.99 tee shirts to $500.00 and up Dolce numbers. The Divine Miss Em and I bought ballet flats for $15.00. These were displayed under a sign that said, “retail $120.00” Then we bought tee shirts for $4.99 with tags that said “retail $60.00.” Oh sure, we scoffed, in the car. Then we looked up the items on the ever-helpful internet, and there were the shoes recommended by Oprah and there was Nicole Richie wearing one of the tee shirts!

Here is the email I got the other day:

We're loving everything that we're getting in,
but a few things are catching our eye!

The tops and dresses by Graydn and A Common Thread are always
a favorite, and our new shipment is no exception!

The laid back, breezy cotton pants from Sanctuary are a must-have
for those in-between winter and spring days.
The look is perfect for weekend comfy-chic.

Want a perfect weekend with the girls?
We love to do "the UAL Hop"!
Each and every UAL is filled with deals, but each store is
a totally different experience. We love finding
beauty deals in Hattiesburg, hot designer jeans and dresses
in Covington, and beautiful runway pieces in Nashville and New Orleans!

We're loving Kendra Scott's unique, nature-inspired pieces.
Bright golds and natural stones are just what we need to
finish our early spring looks. And at $4.99 and up,
the price tag doesn't look so bad either!

Visit any of our four locations!
2033 North Highway 190 in Covington
1829 Hardy Street in Hattiesburg
2918 West End Avenue in Nashville
518 Chartres Street in New Orleans

Amazingly, after I wrote this piece I was reading some articles on New Orleans in The New York Times. And there was a mention of my beloved shop: “United Apparel Liquidators (518 Chartres Street; 504-310-4437) is a fashion mecca among the tacky souvenir shops and beer-soaked bars in the French Quarter. If you have the patience to sift through the crowded racks all arranged by color, you’ll find overstock from Lanvin, Balenciaga and Chloe (mostly from a few seasons back) marked down by at least 50 percent.”

Honestly, this is not a good description of the interior. My store, in any case, is arranged like a fancy boutique, and the sales staff is helpful and enthusiastic.

And I know I have a few males in my audience: guys, they have a small men’s section.
And parents: they often have a rack of kidswear from Melrose Avenue boutiques frequented by people featured in People.

Come visit!

Also of note: this is not a mall store! UAL is local; it’s the product of an entrepreneurial vision. The owners bid against OTHER liquidators at auction. Sometimes they buy things (like a brand of clothing often featured in the Garnet Hill catalog) by the pound. I can’t imagine this is a glamorous business; it’s gritty and competitive.

Do you have a best store where you live? Please share. That way we can visit, even if only in our imaginations.


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Okay Frugal........where do you live and when can I come visit????
Don't be scared.....I won't embarrass you at your local thrift store. Well....not too badly anyway :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Duchesse said...

Definitely come visit!

Haven't you always wondered when you go to a place like Bloomingdale's or Macy's what happens to those endless racks of clothes? They have to go somewhere, and this is it.

Reminds me of a now- forgotten place I fell upon in San Francisco who got huge shipments from Bergdorf's and Barney's bags and shoes, part of the deal is that it was on the other coast, and all of it at least 70% off.

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

I am not much on stores of any kind, but your post reminded me of an odd flea market that was on Jefferson Hwy I believe between River Ridge and Harahan. It was an indoor maze of shops of all kinds of odd items. Do you know by any chance if it is still there?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Midlife--You can visit that store in 4 locations--see the email. But you should come to New Orleans anyway. Mardi Gras is good (and right now), but Jazz Fest is the best.

@Duchesse--I think the common characteristic of these stores is that they are far, far away from their source. My mother-in-law loved the clothes at an expensive ethnic shop in Los Angeles. There was NEVER a sale and she never could find out what happened to the left-overs. Probably they ended up in Florida.

@Cubicle: I once had a plan to write a book with a friend on thrift shopping, flea markets etc. But all that ended with Katrina. I would be embarrassed to tell you how little I've been to New Orleans since then. I will ask around, however.