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Used-clothing outlet expands to Ohio, keep Internet presence

Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Avalon Exchange co-owner Stuart McLean at his former Mt. Lebanon location. The high-fashion secondhand store closed in Mt. Lebanon and is moving its inventory and fixtures to a new store in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, while McLean and his wife are also pushing an online version of their business called “Glossimer.” The Avalon Exchange location in Squirrel Hill will remain open.

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Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Popularity and demand for fashion-focused, second-hand clothing is expanding, according to Stuart McLean, who wants to grow his business to take advantage of the trend.

To do that, McLean this week closed his upscale used-clothing outlet Avalon Exchange in Mt. Lebanon and is moving fixtures and inventory to a new store in the Cleveland suburbs.

McLean, who co-owns the Squirrel Hill-based chain of second-hand shops with his wife, Tammy Thurston McLean, said the 3,000-square-foot store at 680 Washington Road is moving to Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of about 52,000 people on Cleveland's western border.

The store in Mt. Lebanon had been profitable, but sales and growth had leveled off. So McLean said he will now focus on expanding in the Cleveland area, on a designer fashion resale website the couple has started and the possibility of expanding to other cities.

“The (Mt. Lebanon) area didn't grow as much as we hoped. It got to a certain level and stayed there,” McLean said. “Maybe at a different point in my career I would have kept it open.”

He said he has no plans to close the Squirrel Hill Avalon Exchange on Forbes Avenue, which McLean said did twice as much business as Mt. Lebanon in a smaller space.

“We're going to be here forever,” he said.

In addition to the Squirrel Hill location, Avalon has branches in St. Louis' Delmar Loop neighborhood and the Coventry Village area of Cleveland Heights, a suburb on the eastern side of Cleveland. Stuart McLean is a partner in Reddz Trading, a second-hand shop in Washington's posh Bethesda suburb.

Last summer, he and his wife joined Lindsay Williams Kress, a former buyer for ModCloth.com — an originator in the online sale of fashionable second-hand clothing — to start an online-only store for second-hand designer clothes and accessories at Glossimer.com.

Users of that website send photos and descriptions of designer-label goods they'd like to sell to Tammy McLean and Kress. The company then picks up the cost of shipping to Pittsburgh, inspects the goods and sends back 50 percent or more of the resale value. McClean and Kress then photograph the goods in a studio they set up in Squirrel Hill, and resell the goods online. Business was slow at first, but transactions have picked up in the past two months, Tammy McLean said.

“Luxury goods had a surge this year, and ... there isn't anyone out there who's already nailed that market for selling online,” Kress said. “When you're selling this stuff on eBay, you have really high fees for luxury goods and you have to be your own customer service department.”

Unlike ModCloth, where Kress was the seventh full-time employee, Glossimer.com is focused purely on designer items and resale, she said.

San Francisco-based ModCloth, which was founded by a pair of Carnegie Mellon University graduates and has a large presense in Pittsburgh, began by reselling vintage items before branching out into new, vintage-inspired goods.

Stuart McLean plans to travel to Houston this year, where he hopes to scout new locations for Avalon Exchange or Reddz Trading. He mentioned the possibility of expanding Reddz to another location in Washington.

With seasonal help being let go and student employees returning to school, only two regular employees at the Mt. Lebanon Avalon were laid off as a result of the store's closure. A manager there is being transferred to Squirrel Hill, Tammy McLean said.

“The store was apparently performing, but (McLean) is putting his resources and time elsewhere,” said Eric Milliron, Mt. Lebanon's economic development officer. The bright side, he said, was that Avalon's closing would open up a large contiguous storefront — the kind of space that's hard to find in Mt. Lebanon's built-out Uptown business district.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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