Don’t be surprised if the next time you’re at the Closet Transfer in downtown Winslow someone drops by to thank owner Carol Ingles for her help.
They might even bring her flowers.
That’s what happened on a recent afternoon.
Gwen Ganjeau, of Seattle, and Chrysti M. Smith of Bozeman, Montana had been in the store earlier in the day for their first time. They were so taken by the good service they received that they came back with flowers for Ingles.
“We had such a good time,” Ganjeau said. “She was so helpful and has such wonderful things here in her store.”
Ingles is celebrating 35 years in business at her Bainbridge Island store. She began at another location downtown, but it wasn’t long before her current location opened up and she moved there.
“I was the bookkeeper for the real estate company that was here,” she said of the current location. “When they moved out I knew this was just the right space for me.”
The idea for the Closet Transfer came to her when she was getting her daughter ready to go back to school, way back when.
“I was driving home from my real estate job and I was thinking about cleaning out my daughter’s closet so she’d have room for new school clothes,” Ingles said. “I thought about how many other parents might be doing the same thing and how we should exchange items.”
Hence, the name: Closet Transfer.
The original idea was a consignment shop for kids clothing. But once she started planning, she knew she needed to add women’s clothes. The men’s clothing came a few years later.
“I didn’t think men would shop consignment,” she said. “But I got requests.”
“That’s one thing that has changed,” she said. Men are now into shopping in consignment stores.”
When the store first opened, Ingles kept working as a bookkeeper. She has an accounting degree. She also got her real estate license. During those years, she had a business partner and her mother helped out in the store.
It was sometime in the 1980s that she left her other jobs to focus on Closet Transfer only.
And then about 10 years ago, she opened a second store in Poulsbo. It, too, moved locations after the first few years and is now on Front Street.
In the beginning, the customer base was mostly people who were trying to shop economically. But then, Ingles said, the base began to grow to include people who “are into the repurposing and recycling.”
Today, her inventory includes accessories, like jewelry, scarves, shoes and handbags. Her stores are know for carrying name brands.
“What’s most popular now are the classics, the designer labels,” she said. Included are Eileen Fisher, Chanel, Eve St. Laurent and Gucci.
She buys her inventory on consignment by appointment. Right now she’s booked through November.
“I probably have a hundred people I deal with,” she said. “And I take in and process 200 items here on Bainbridge a week, and 300 to 400 in Poulsbo each week. Our inventory changes all the time.”
Customers, like Ellie DeVries and Jenna Tabisola, Bainbridge High students, stopped by Closet Transfer recently to look for dresses for the homecoming dance.
“It’s always interesting to come in here because you never know what you’ll find,” said DeVries.
“It’s like a treasure hunt,” Tabisola said.
Ingles spends most of her time at one or the other store. But in her spare time, she likes to garden.
“When you work retail, you’re with people all day,” she said. “Sometimes it’s nice to just be in the quiet of the garden.”
What’s meant the most to her in the past 35 years of retail and small business has been her loyal customers.
“I’d really like to say thank you to all the people who have supported Closet Transfer,” she said. “I’ve come to know them by name. I know all about their children and their grandchildren. We’re really like family.”
Location: The Bainbridge Island Closet Transfer is at 562 Bjune Drive SE, Bainbridge Island.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: In Poulsbo, the store is located at 18940 Front St.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.