CARROLLWOOD — Good news for teens and tweens in the Carrollwood area: the popular Plato's Closet has nearly doubled its space.
After 10 years in Carrollwood Plaza, the consignment store that specializes in casual clothing for young adults moved in April. It's now a mile south on N Dale Mabry Highway, near Linebaugh Avenue.
"That particular store was very successful in bringing in inventory, but a lot of it was in blue bins in our warehouse," said co-owner Rene Tirado.
Customers bring in their gently used name-brand clothing for consignment. At the former location, only about half of what was brought in made it onto the sales floor because of space restrictions. So when their lease was up, Tirado and business partner Jim Weaver decided it was time to expand.
In their new location at Carrollwood Center, "the customer selection is almost twice as much as we used to have. We've gone from 33 racks to 61 racks on the sales floor," Tirado said.
The Carrollwood Plato's Closet was the first in the Tampa area. Now there are several, five of which are owned by Tirado and Weaver.
While other businesses have struggled in a sluggish economy, Tirado says his stores have benefited.
"Parents come in wanting to save money. When they see what we have, they realize, why am I spending $85 at the mall on a new pair of jeans when I can get them here for half the price?" said Tirado, of Lakeland, who has four kids of his own, including a 14-year-old daughter, his target customer.
About 80 percent of the franchise's customers are females, most of whom are between the ages of 12 to 24, or their parents. The store buys and sells shorts, jeans, T-shirts, tank tops and more, especially name brands like American Eagle, Abercrombie and Hollister.
The new Carrollwood store features bigger aisles, more fitting rooms and cash registers and better parking, which all make for a more pleasant shopping experience, Tirado said.
"A lot of our customers have been with us for a long time. We've had very positive feedback from them."
Summer is the busiest time particularly as it winds down and another school year begins. The additional space and increased sales also mean hiring more sales associates. Tirado said he'll be hiring through the summer.
Plato's Closet, at 10009 N Dale Mabry Highway, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. Call (813) 968-8383.
Laptop Xchange opens
Though Carrollwood Plaza lost Plato's Closet, it gained a new resident with a similar mission.
The Laptop Xchange opened there in January.
"We are the Plato's Closet or Play it Again Sports of the laptop industry," said general manager Todd Taylor.
The store buys, sells and trades used laptops, tablets and smartphones.
"We bring the high-tech world to the everyday consumer who can't necessarily afford to purchase a $1,500 laptop," Taylor said.
A former corporate executive, Taylor was an entrepreneur looking for a new concept when he found the Laptop Xchange, which started in Las Vegas and now has 10 stores across the nation.
"As a franchise opportunity, it's still a relatively new concept," said Taylor, of Lakeland.
The Carrollwood store is the only Laptop Xchange in Florida.
"There are enough folks who like to upgrade to new technology every six months to a year, but then they don't know what to do with their old devices. We buy used laptops, clean them up, refurbish them, get rid of everything people downloaded onto them, and then put them back out for sale," he said.
In addition to offering used laptops, tablets and smartphones, the store also offers repair service for those devices as well as for desktop computers.
"One woman came in with a laptop from 1991 that didn't even have dialup. We put people in more modern technology for a very fair price," Taylor said.
Although the business does purchase used laptops, it won't accept anything with an operating system older than Windows XP, or OS 10 for Mac.
The Laptop Xchange, at 13128 N Dale Mabry Highway, is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Call (813) 898-2727.
Elizabeth Miller can be reached at [email protected]