Resale shop in McIntyre Square benefits animal groups
Nancy Lee has let fashion go to the dogs — and cats, and horses, rabbits, llamas and emus.
WearWoof, Lee's resale clothing store, which recently relocated to McIntyre Square, off McKnight Road, sells gently used name-brand juniors fashions and women's career, casual and cocktail wear for prices up to 70 percent off retail.
Proceeds benefit local animal shelters and rescue organizations.
The idea of running a boutique-style clothing shop to benefit animal welfare combines two of Lee's passions: fashion and animals.
“I grew up on a small farm. We always had cats, chickens, cows and pigs. They were my friends growing up,” said Lee, 49, of Ben Avon Heights.
Her love for fashion began at age 5, when she started sewing her own clothes. She has a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
In 2011, during an extended vacation in Florida, Lee volunteered at a cat shelter and noticed that thrift stores were being used to help offset costs at specific shelters.
“My vision was to open a store to raise money for many different animal organizations. But I didn't want a thrift store because I like fashion,” she said.
Upon returning to the Pittsburgh area, Lee started collecting inventory by purging her own closet. “I had a ridiculously huge wardrobe,” she said.
She quit her job in human resources to open WearWoof in 2013, which now employs two salaried workers, in addition to having 24 volunteers. Lee said she does not draw a paycheck.
To keep the racks filled, she depends on women throughout the community to donate high-quality apparel and accessories they no longer use.
Currently, the shop's inventory includes more than 18,000 items, according to store manager Shannon Gianoni, 26, of Ross.
“We're overwhelmed with gratitude. These donations show that people like what we're doing,” Gianoni said.
The border of Ross and McCandless runs through the new store, according to Lee, who said it has more retail space than the old one.
That has allowed Lee to expand the juniors section and add hand-crafted jewelry made by local artists.
“Our first week here (at McIntyre Square), the foot traffic increased ten-fold,” said Gianoni, who helped the store move from its previous location on Rochester Road in Ross on July 23.
Shalynn Thomas, 23, of Ross, recently discovered the store and said she appreciates its wide selection of merchandise.
As the owner of a 7-year-old zebra finch, she is even more appreciative of the store's mission to help animals.
“That's a great cause. It makes me want to shop here more. And to donate, too,” she said.
To date, WearWoof has distributed approximately $40,000 among 32 animal-welfare organizations, including the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, Animal Friends Inc. and the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center, as well as smaller organizations such as Rabbit Wranglers, Wildbird Recovery and Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary.
A majority of the money is used to fund spaying and neutering services.
“We want to spay and neuter more animals because we can't adopt our way out of animal homelessness,” Lee said.
Dan Rossi, executive director of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center, with facilities in Pittsburgh and Verona, estimates that his shelter performed 7,000 sterilization procedures last year alone.
“It costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Rossi, 54, of Forest Hills.
He said he is thankful for WearWoof's donations.
Veterinarian Karen Phillips also is grateful. She opened the 7-acre Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary in Franklin Park in 2013 to nurse, house, and find loving homes for discarded farm animals.
Among her biggest expenses are feed and hay.
“We're so grateful to those who donate $15 for chicken pellets. But WearWoof has contributed over $1,000, which is absolutely astounding and helpful,” said Phillips, 42, of Franklin Park.
“That's what makes them so special. They're not just helping the big guys who are doing incredible things, but they're also helping the little guys like us.”
Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.