Debbie in Bloom

I walked into Bloomin’ Deals to interview Debbie Burke, the new thrift shop manager, and was greeted warmly by the staff and volunteers. This is something Debbie insists upon – customers being welcomed just as if they’d walked into a department store. Along with that warm welcome was a beach display, complete with umbrella, lounge chairs, folding table and a romance novel. All that was missing was the sand and sun. When beachy items arrived at the store, she and her staff set up the area and even added beach towels. The items began selling immediately. “I like for [the staff] to enjoy coming to work,” she grinned, telling me about the fun setup.

Debbie brings a hands-on approach to the store from her experience at Belk in Gulfport, Mississippi. She implemented a staff-only sorting policy that she personally oversees, and her “team player” mentality is paying off. The warehouse is organized and clearly labeled, and the wares on the floor have been vetted with care. Debbie even goes so far as to cross check designer items to make certain that boutique merchandise is priced accordingly.

To enhance the Bridal Boutique, which features many high-end wedding gowns* and formal wear, Debbie had staff members lay out a donated area rug and set up a floor mirror that she brought from home. She wants brides and party-goers to have a true department store experience when trying on options for special occasions. It must be working – one bride that came in left with three dresses so she could change at different stages of her big day!

The success of her impromptu sidewalk sale at the Freret Street Festival prompted Debbie to put on a Father’s Day special as well. The sale (50 percent off dresses, buy one get two free t-shirts) brought in extra business, resulting in more than $4,000 storewide in three days. She hinted that shoppers should watch the storefront during the Junior League’s Freret 5K and perhaps during the Freret Street Marketplace.

It is obvious that Debbie loves what she does when she talks about her plans for the store. She and JLNO Thrift Shop Chair, Heather Doyle, recently attended the NARTS: Association of Resale Professionals conference, which offered educational training to resale owners and operators.  Debbie’s goals for the thrift shop are simple and wonderfully appropriate for Bloomin’ Deals, “I want to see it bloom and be even greater than it is.”

* Wedding gowns, many of them designer, are priced at $100.



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