LITTLE ITALY — When owner Deb Spyer opened Urban Renew consignment, she admittedly didn't have much experience selling clothing at a retail level.
At 5-foot-1, with sharp blue eyes behind circular black frames, Spyer resembles the American costume designer Edith Head. But her background was mostly corporate — working 16 years at Kraft Foods and a short stint trying to sell her own muffin mix at “Debbie’s Country Muffins” in the early '90s — she didn’t exactly have a huge history in retail.
What she did have was a love for people and making them feel good about themselves — and shopping at consignment stores with friends and family.
“I’ve always managed teams and run departments and I always have treated people as I want to be treated,” said Spyer, of University Village. "The other thing is to really just be yourself and make people feel good about themselves.”
So, after three years in retirement and one 60th birthday, she drew up a business plan for a consignment shop which would carry a range of vintage and relatively new clothes at variety of prices. In November she moved in to the storefront at 925 S. Loomis St.
Spyer said she now has 20 different consigners who bring pieces for her to sell. Recently, a neighborhood resident brought in a hand-sequined dress — created by California designer Gene Shelly — given to her mother by a secret admirer in 1967.
“I’m learning about all these fashion designers that I would have never heard of in a million years, so it’s really fun,” Spyer said.
In addition to vintage jewelry, Spyer also carries jewelry pieces by LA2L, a Paris designer whose barrettes and headbands have most recently been picked up by the hippie chic retailer Anthropologie. She also personally specializes in rehabbing vintage Coach purses and handbags.
Several stores have rotated in and out of her Loomis location over the past five years, including Hazel, a clothing and gift boutique which opened a new store in North Center, and Zia’s, an accessories and jewelry shop that closed last year.
But Spyer said despite the turnover, she hopes that the lack of retail on the Near West Side, along with the University of Illinois at Chicago students and Rush Hospital population, will keep business steady.
“Any business owner has concerns, but I’m a pretty positive person,” she said. “In this area, what I’m finding is, the community's really liking the fact that there’s something here.”
Prices at Urban Renew vary from $24 to $250 for purses, depending on the label; $18-$50 for jeans; and $18 to $75 for jewelry. With the exception of the more expensive purses and jewelry, all items are 30 percent off throughout the month of January.
Spyer said she welcomes new pieces, those looking to consign get 45 percent when the item sells.
The store is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.