Resale store sells more than business attire

When Joyce Norris acquired the Working Woman's Shop in January, she wondered whether the store's name was a good match for its inventory.

After all, customers can find clothing for many occasions and an assortment of home decor items.

"I thought about changing it, but I didn't want to lose the 20 years (of recognition)," Norris said.

While Norris is the consignment shop's third owner, it has maintained continuity over time. Opened by Joyce Stateler in 1989 to give professional women affordable clothing alternatives, the Working Woman's Shop is still in the same shopping center at 21st and West Street. Stateler sold it in 1999 to Joan Russell, who expanded its floor space during her ownership before selling it to Norris.

The clothing selection, which includes a variety of lightly worn business, casual and formal pieces, is more fluid.

"It changes every day, and that's what we tell people when they come in," said Norris, who moved to Wichita three years ago and worked as a Realtor for more than 20 years. "If they're looking for something specific, sometimes it's hard to find that. We encourage them to check back because we put new clothes out just about every day."

Customers can find racks of suit coats, skirts, jackets, blouses, vests, pants and jeans in the shop's main area. The store also sells lingerie, scrubs, shoes, belts and jewelry.

Judy Holbrook, an assistant store manager who has worked for all three owners, said the store draws a variety of shoppers. Common are women who shop for elderly relatives, professionals who maintain their own wardrobes and younger women whose tastes contribute to the store's wide selection.

"The best thing is when they wear an outfit to work and their girls will say, 'Where'd you get that?' " Holbrook said. "Word of mouth sometimes can be your worst advertisement, but in our case, it's probably the best advertisement."

The Working Woman's Shop's formal wear selection attracts shoppers who are going on cruises or attending a wedding, Norris said. For bargain hunters, one room is set aside as a clearance closet. It includes a rack of $2 clothing items, a feature several customers asked Norris whether she was keeping when she became the owner.

The store's decor section includes pictures, frames, pillows, artificial floral arrangements and, currently, a small selection of Christmas items.

The shop donates some of the items it can't sell to groups like the Women's Crisis Center. The recycling aspect of the business pleases Norris, too.

"I just thought this was my niche," Norris said. "I love to shop. It was something that could be my passion rather than just selling something I wasn't really interested in."