Doesn't it feel great when you take a life-changing risk and it pays off? That was one of the questions I asked Amy Pickard, owner of men's consignment store Revolve (1222 East Blvd.) and women's online boutique Olive (www.shopoliveonline.com). I wasn't at all surprised when her answer was a resounding "Yes!"
Revolve was the first fashion and retail venture Pickard embarked on after selling real estate for more than seven years. The initial storefront location opened in Myers Park in 2009, but she moved to the Dilworth area and has been there for a little more than a year. Revolve is the only strictly men's consignment store in Charlotte and currently one of only eight stores of its kind on the entire East Coast.
So, where did the idea come from? A conversation with her mom. After discussing how well the women's consignment stores in Atlanta (her hometown) were doing, Pickard packed up everything in her home (she was living in Charleston then) and did the craziest thing she'd ever done: She moved to the Queen City.
Meanwhile, Charlotte's men were just dying to jump on the bandwagon of consignment, proven by the waiting list of potential consignors she's developed since Revolve's second week of opening. Pickard says she can "only take in as much merchandise as there's room for in the store" and at 900 square feet, she's pretty selective. In fact, Revolve only consigns certain brands, like Brooks Brothers, Prada and Ted Baker. Many of her clients are salespeople looking to sell their sample pieces, and some are even buyers from stores that may have recently gone out of business. Revolve's policy stays true to the definition of consignment. As long as the clothing, shoes, hats and accessories fit within the guidelines of what Pickard describes as "higher end," she will take them.
After opening a place like Revolve, perhaps the next logical move would have been women's consignment. Many entrepreneurs might think so, considering the success of Revolve, but not Pickard. After only two years in the retail business, the online boutique Olive was born.
"I wanted to do something that I could run out of [Revolve], and I wanted to keep my items at affordable price points," Pickard says. "So right now, everything is under $75."
Olive carries a mixture of brands, everything from fun dresses to more dressy, cocktail looks for all those weddings and events women like us are always invited to. There's everything from this season's version of the LBD (little black dress) to a beautiful tribal printed dress — comfy yet flirty — that any woman would fall head over heels for. Some of her inventory was recently spotted in a swanky, upscale boutique in Charleston for almost double the price, and since she doesn't have the overhead that comes along with a storefront for Olive, she can be economy-conscious, which works out well for all the "stylistas" in the Q.C. and beyond.
Side note: Not just a fashion junkie, Pickard is also a philanthropist. After volunteering in Charleston for an 18-year-old organization called Dining With Friends (www.diningwithfriendscharlotte.org) that raises money for AIDS awareness, she decided to bring it to Charlotte. After teaming up with local organization Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN), the Charlotte chapter became a reality in 2010 and raised $20,000. She's also recently started another fundraiser, Blonds vs. Brunettes (www.bvbcharlotte.org), a powder puff football game to raise funds for Alzheimer's, happening in May 2012.
When asked how her life has changed since moving to Charlotte and starting her business, Pickard says, "I've always loved fashion, but I have learned a lot in the past couple of years. I'm way happier now though. I'm in love with my job and what I do. I'm so humbled by the support I've received here from the retail side and philanthropic efforts. Charlotte gives me a very settling feeling."