With shelves of designer clothes, shoes, handbags and other items — all donated — the Nearly New Shop is one of the city’s best-kept fashion secrets, according to the Louisville chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women. .
Located on the lower level of the Mid-City Shopping Center in the Highlands, the 24,000 square foot store offers “lightly used” men’s and women’s clothing – ranging from formal wear to workout wear – children’s clothing, accessories, furniture, jewelry, china, glassware and even office tools and equipment.
Proceeds support the organization’s advocacy work, which focuses on child and family well-being, including a major fundraising campaign it led to reopen a family recovery court in Louisville for parents and children affected by drugs and alcohol.
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Now, with the store’s annual three-day “Fashion Encore” sale approaching in October, longtime board member Jane Emke is working to promote its image and expand opportunities for volunteers and retail training for job seekers, including participants in Jefferson County Collections Court.
Emke, 81, and a council volunteer for more than 50 years, said she was ready for a new challenge after helping lead a fundraising campaign that raised about $600,000 to restart the courthouse. reinstated in 2018, one of many former statewide family drug courts. which closed in 2010 due to a budget deficit.
The two Jefferson County Family Rehabilitation Courts, which provide intensive supervision and treatment for parents and their children affected by substance abuse, now operate with a $375,000-a-year stipend from the Kentucky General Assembly, added to the state budget this year with the help of two Louisville state senators, Morgan McGarvey, Democrat, and Julie Raque Adams, Republican.
“I don’t need to fundraise anymore,” Emke said. “Now I can focus on transforming the store.”
Although the shop is still doing well, rising costs and fewer volunteers mean less money raised for the council’s advocacy work, said Nancy Chazen, executive director of the council’s Louisville chapter.
The council would like to increase revenue by improving its visibility in a changing retail market and increasing the number of volunteers to supplement its “hardworking” staff of nine, Chazen said. Some of its longtime volunteers left amid the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020 and have not returned.
Nearly New was founded by the council in 1956 with an all-volunteer staff when fewer women were in the workforce, said council chair Joyce Bridge. With many more women working today, the store has moved to higher paid staff, she said.
But Chazen said the store is already seeing an increase in volunteers amid recruitment efforts by Emke and others.
“Jane has been great at re-energizing our volunteers,” Chazen said.
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Emke said many of the volunteers she contacted are retired and willing to put in a few hours a week at the store. Duties include sorting, labeling, organizing and posting donated goods.
Emke said the store also hopes to hire more people who complete rehabilitation court to give them work experience and perhaps start a program that could provide some form of certification in retail work.
Dakota McCord, 32, who is about to complete rehabilitation court, works at Nearly New five days a week, a job she said she loves. Her job is helping her move closer to her goals of becoming independent and regaining custody of her young son, whom she temporarily lost custody of due to addiction, she said.
McCord, who said she grew up amid drug addiction and domestic violence, said she had been drug-free for more than a year and her son was a part of every week. She hopes she can encourage others to believe that there is a better life through recovery.
“I’ve known so many people who are addicted and don’t think there’s a way out,” McCord said.
Chazen said providing jobs for workers, including McCord, is part of the store’s mission.
“We are happy to be able to do this,” she said. “As an organization, we want to make sure we’re uplifting these women.”
The store is also working to expand its reach in a changing market, Chazen said.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have turned to online shopping or bought goods at big-box outlets, she said. And some were hesitant to shop in person, through Chazen said Nearly New was seeing a gradual increase in customers.
To counter those trends, Chozen said the council would increase marketing and advertising after cutting spending during the pandemic.
Emke said the council is also considering increasing its social media presence, most recently through Tik Tok videos created by a young woman she met who was shopping at Nearly New.
One of the things the pandemic has helped has been to bring in a new wave of donations that staff and volunteers are still sorting through, Emke said.
“Everyone cleaned out their closets,” she said.
This year, Emke said the boutique hopes to attract more customers to its annual Fashion Encore sale through special events, including a “scarf school” to teach scarf-tying techniques. Models, she said, will include Family Rehabilitation Court judges Lauren Ogden and Angela Johnson.
Fashion Encore will take place Oct. 22, 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The scarf school will take place on Oct. 23 at 1 p.m.
Contact journalist Deborah Yetter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @d_yetter.