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Largo boutique sells new, used hot brands for cool prices

LARGO

It's a fashionista's paradise: 125 pairs of shoes tucked inside plastic boxes, 50 pairs of jeans, and shirts, pants and other clothes hanging wall to wall.

But that's not the store. It's the store owner's closet in her Dunedin home.

Actually, Carrie Pruiett, 43, has so many clothes and shoes of her own that she can't fit them all in a closet. She uses an entire bedroom of her home to house her personal fashion finds.

Turning her love of style into a business, Pruiett opened her own clothing store 13 years ago in Largo. Off the Rack sells new and secondhand items for teenage girls and boys and young women. It enables her to share her love of designer brands like Lucky, True Religion and Bebe with customers.

Nicole McDermott, 30, of Belleair has shopped at Off the Rack for 12 years. Her mother, friends and daughter also like the store.

"She has great stuff — really nice and hip, at good prices," McDermott said. "She has a lot of BCBG and Express. She's got a lot of boutique items that other consignment shops do not have."

McDermott said she sells back her own clothes as well as buys new ones at Pruiett's shop.

"I shop a lot," she said.

Another reason Pruiett opened the store was to escape the marketing job she had in the corporate world for a dozen years.

"My heart wasn't in it," she said. "I wanted to open my own high-end boutique. I didn't have the financial backing to do that, so I decided I'll try to cater to an untapped market," including women in their 20s, 30s and 40s and teenagers. "Luckily it turned out pretty good.

"I liked the trendier, cuter stuff, and all the consignment shops were more for grownups," Pruiett said. "So I just figured I'll do one that caters more to the youthful.

"I wanted to run it like a typical boutique, where you have your vendors and you purchase your product and you sell it. But now my vendors, instead of being companies, would be individuals. So I just kind of took the ideas that a lot of the children's stores did and applied it to the teen-to-college-age sector."

That philosophy has worked and kept Pruiett in business through some rough times. She said 2009 was the store's worst year for back-to-school sales.

"Last year is when we really started noticing that we were getting the same number of people, but they weren't buying as many items when they came in and maybe they weren't coming in quite as often," Pruiett said. "People are being a lot pickier."

Amber Dees, 33, said she's "very, very picky," but she frequently steps into Off the Rack for the brands like Bebe and Cachet.

"I've been shopping there for seven years now, and I've found some of my favorite things there," said Dees, who used to live in Clearwater but now drives over from Tampa.

McDermott said she shops at Off the Rack for the clothes but also for the personal attention Pruiett provides.

"I think she's wonderful … always bright and happy," McDermott said. "She knows what I like. She'll call me on the phone and tell me when stuff comes in that's my size or a Coach purse.

"She knows more about labels and brands than anyone I've ever known. She cannot only tell you about the brand, but how long it's been around and the average cost."

Pruiett treasures that bond.

"I have a personal relationship with my customers," she said. "Many are older than you'd think. We have tons of customers in their 30s and 40s."

She's happy with her business.

"I don't know if I would want more than one store," she said. "I like it being one store where we know everybody. That's why I left corporate, to make it more personal."

Want to sell your unwanted clothes? Off the Rack store owner Carrie Pruiett offers this advice:

1 Look for stains, spray them and wash thoroughly.

2Fold the clothes neatly and put in a basket or bag.

3 Don't smoke around the clothes or leave them in your car for days and days.

4 If it's ancient, ask yourself, would I pay money for this? (The label doesn't lie — she can figure out which clothes are from previous years' collections.)

5 Don't take it personally if your clothes aren't bought. Sometimes there are just too many size 5 jeans on store racks.

6If it's Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle or Hollister from within the last year and isn't stained, it will sell.

Off the Rack

7500 Ulmerton Road, Largo

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Information: shopofftherack.com or (727) 531-5508.

Largo boutique sells new, used hot brands for cool prices 08/21/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 21, 2010 4:30am]
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