You can buy designer duds for a fraction of the original price, By LInda SMith Hancharick Hewitt, N.J. As the economy drags on, consumers continue to find ways to stretch their paychecks and to bring more money into their households. Kathleen Ashe Babcock knows that feeling. She is the owner of Ashlee’s Consignment Boutique, located on Union Valley Road in Hewitt, N.J. Babcock opened the shop two years ago to provide a vital service of recycling and conserving resources, all in an organized shopping environment. Just one look inside her store and you will see what she means. It is meticulously organized, with rows and rows of sweaters, slacks, skirts, dresses, shirts, jackets, jeans, shoes and everything else you can wear. Professional organizer Babcock, who lives in Greenwood Lake, has brought her skill set to her business. As one of seven children in a military family, their household was very neat and organized. “I couldn’t cook,” she said. “But organizing was my strength.” She majored in business management in college and was hired by corporations to help them “clean out” from a human resources perspective when they were cutting down their expenses. Whatever her job, she always seemed to be organizing. Frustrated by the glass ceiling of business, she decided to do more organizing for individuals. “I decided I enjoy making an impact on people,” she said. So, she goes into people’s houses and helps them organize their things and therefore their lives. “When customers asked where can I bring my items, I ran out of great ideas,” Babcock said. So she came up with a new one: a consignment store. Reduce, reuse, recycle “We cater to the entire family,” said Babcock. “And our $5 jeans pile is the best bargain in the house.” Yes, $5 jeans. Men’s, women’s and kid’s jeans. Just go through the pile. At any given time there will be designer jeans like Juicy Couture and Ann Taylor, or staples like Levi’s and Lee. But where can you possibly get them for $5? Ashlee’s of course. And the best thing is that the money raised at the $5 jean pile is donated to local families in need. The other items are well priced, at least 50 percent less than they originally sold for, and that’s if the tags are on. Gently used clothing is sold for up to 70 percent less than originally priced. Another of the best deals in the store currently, she said, is Chico’s clothing. She has a client she helps organize who bought hundreds of pieces of Chico’s clothes. And now Babcock is selling them. Most have tags still on them. And formal wear is always a hit. Babcock said prom season was tremendous. She sold beautiful prom gowns for $50 and $75. Authentic only If you find a Coach bag in her store, you can be assured it’s authentic. Babcock gathers all her new designer items each week and heads to Woodbury Commons in New York to authenticate each and every item. “We won’t sell bootleg bags. It’s illegal in the state of New Jersey,” she said. “In this store it’s guaranteed. If you buy a designer item, it is a designer item.” Family affair While Babcock has invested much in this venture, it truly is a family affair. Her husband, James, a master carpenter, and son Jesse, a journeyman carpenter, have helped her build the interior of the store with their handiwork. And you will see them there often. As for the giraffe motif, that was kind of a fluke. Babcock said she chose that particular animal print to match the green carpeting that was already there. Then, her consignors started donating all different giraffe tchotchkes, including a three-foot tall, handmade giraffe from one woman, which stands in one of the stores handcrafted shelves. Moms with kids are always welcome to shop, she said, because along with the giraffes are other animals around the store. “We send the children on a safari,” Babcock said. They go hunting for the animals tucked carefully at eye-level for them while mom or dad shops undeterred. “It usually gives them about half an hour of uninterrupted shopping,” she said. Great bargains, authentic designer garb, and uninterrupted shopping. Can’t beat that. Ashlee’s Consignment Boutique, located at 1935 Union Valley Road, Hewitt, N.J., is open daily at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; it closes at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. For information, call 973-506-7300.
Want to be a consignor? New consignors sign an agreement with Babcock before selling their merchandise. They pay a $10 registration fee for the year and can bring 15 items in every two weeks. After researching things on eBay and other online sites, she prices the items. Most things are priced at 30 to 45 percent of the original price; new items with tags start at half price.