On November 29th JLNO celebrated the 90th anniversary of its Bloomin’ Deals thrift shop with a walk down memory lane. Within the walls of Bloomin’ Deals Freret Street boutique, current JLNO members, sustainers and Bloomin' Deals shoppers were greeted with displays of photographs – pulled from the JLNO Archives housed at the U.S. Mint – telling the story of The League's commitment to the community via its thrift shop. To emphasize Bloomin’ Deals longstanding tradition of fashion, fundraising and philanthropy, JLNO members paraded down the runway in ensembles reflecting each decade of Bloomin’ Deals history (all of which were of course sourced from the thrift store racks).
Yet, while many current League members can easily find their way to and through the Bloomin’ Deals location on Freret Street, the thrift shop was first opened as a permanent fundraising feature in 1927 on Royal Street, before moving to two other French Quarter locations, including Bourbon Street. On November 22, 1960, Mayor Chep Morrison cut the ribbon at the new location on Freret Street, a move intended to target improving public transportation and a changing customer base.
While sales initially soared, a decline in businesses and customers in the Freret area necessitated a revamping. In the early 1990’s, Bloomin’ Deals moved next door into the former Eckerd’s pharmacy building. At this time, The League held a naming contest and expanded the retail space. The result was over 8,000 square feet of the new Bloomin’ Deals, which is now The League’s largest fundraising project. The commitment to keeping Bloomin’ Deals a vibrant part of The League is clear, and as Heather Doyle, the Business Council Director, notes, “acquiring the two properties on Freret have been some of the best decisions we could have made for the thrift store. We have deep roots in the Freret neighborhood.”
As the Freret corridor has changed over the last few years, Bloomin’ Deals has kept pace. A newly paved parking lot is simply the first part of the facelift. The thrift shop also has changed the way it displays merchandise, which helps sell inventory faster. This includes a new tagging system, which the shop hopes to debut in March of 2018.
But it’s not just structural changes that have made Bloomin’ Deals so successful. Bloomin’ Deals has focused on ways to bring new and exciting features to the thrift shop that will encourage repeat customers. This began with the addition of the Bridal Boutique in 2012, which is now a permanent fixture inside the main store.
Heather (and the regular customers) also are excited about the Luxury for Less (LFL) pop-up boutique sales that began in March. “[T]hey have added an extra level of excitement for our customers. The sales have quite a following now, and customers are always asking when the next one is. I try to make each sale a little different,” said Heather. The first LFL sale had a small rack of Lululemon, and September featured a vintage clothing and housewares section. With merchandise on par with some of the best consignment stores in the city for unbeatable prices, Heather believes “popularity and interest is only going to grow.”
Bag Day is another creative undertaking for Bloomin’ Deals, and happens semi-annually. For $10, customers can fill a 33-gallon bag with all the merchandise they can carry. Although the store opens at 10 am, customers start lining up around 7 am. For the recent Fall bag day, the entire store was cleared in less than 45 minutes, with customers filling over 200 garbage bags with merchandise!
Thrift Shop members also work to help customers who are looking for something special. Heather related a story about a recent customer who needed something very specific. She had been out of work for several months and recently gotten a serving job, but could not find an affordable work shirt. Heather spent several minutes going through almost every shirt in the warehouse, until she found 4-5 options. “I found her exactly what she needed, and she only had to pay five dollars for it. She gave me the biggest hug, and that was the best feeling. Everyone deserves to feel special when they’re shopping, and being able to brighten someone’s day by helping them find something they feel confident in or an item that brings them joy is my favorite part of being at Bloomin’ Deals.”