Natalia Dumanetskaya, owner of Luxe Consignment in Northampton, follows fashion business dreams



Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Natalia Dumanetskaya, owner of Luxe Consignment, said if you had asked her when she was 19 what she would accomplish in the next 10 years, she would have hoped to own a business sooner than she did.

And now, at 29, the goal-driven Dumanetskaya is still pushing herself to accomplish more. Her women’s consignment shop opened at 376 Pleasant St. in late October. Owning the store was the perfect way for Dumanetskaya to blend her creativity with her passions for people and fashion. Since she was a child, she said she has dreamed of being a clothing designer.

The business, Dumanetskaya said, allows her to follow those dreams while still being realistic. At the end of January, she plans to leave her full-time job as a paraprofessional in the Chicopee school system to devote all her energy to her creative endeavors.

She is planning to begin work soon on her own line of accessories. Citing inspiration from a pair of jet-black leather Valentino boots she has for sale, she would like to make handbags that feature intricate details like hand-cut leather flowers.

“If I don’t do this 100 percent there is no point in doing it at all,” she explained.

Variety and quality

Enormous floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the wide array of merchandise in the main room of Dumanetskaya’s shop. At any given time, she estimated she has 2,000 shoes, sweaters, accessories and other pieces of clothing throughout the shop’s three rooms.

Her items range from typical mall merchandise to the luxurious, with prices ranging from $4 to $400. Despite the wide range in prices, Dumanetskaya said that quality is the number one factor in determining what she will stock in her store.“I want to have a little bit of everything,” she said. “That way every customer can find something.”

Dumanetskaya said she is encouraged by the foot traffic she sees come through the doors of her business, which on a good day serves 25 people. Some will buy only one item, while others well spend hundreds. She said nearly everyone who visits her shop will make a purchase and spends, on average, between $100 and $150.

Dumanetskaya considers herself an expert bargain-hunter and a serious do-it-yourselfer. Just feet away from a neatly-displayed tower of Calvin Klein and J. Crew shoes sits a dark wooden bench. Though it looks like it could have fetched a high price at an antique dealer’s, Dumanetskaya found it on the side of the road. After sanding, refinishing, and reupholstering the seat herself, she added a decorative carving purchased from a Salvation Army thrift store.

Now, the bench provides a seamless blend with the rest of the store’s simple yet elegant decor. “I feel guilty buying something if I can make it myself,” she remarked.

Dumanetskaya said that creating a comfortable shopping environment was important for her in the planning the business, modeling it after a boutique rather than a typical used-clothing store. To ensure that all the clothing she sells is ready-to-wear, she washes or dry cleans many of the items, steam-cleaning everything to get rid of musty smells and germs.

“I take pride in all the things that I buy,” she said. “I don’t want the store to have that second-hand feeling.”

Customers are welcome to bring in items for consignment. If an item sells, the customer receives 50 percent of the sale. Dumanetskaya also looks for items herself, scouring auctions, thrift stores and tag sales to find hidden treasures.

In an effort to help establish a cozy atmosphere in her store, Dumanetskaya said she often offers complimentary tea to her customers while they sit on the plush couch in the back room, an intimate space where the store’s three fitting rooms are located.

“They come as guests and leave as friends,” she said.

A long, winding road

In Russia, Dumanetskaya earned an associate degree in fashion design before immigrating to the United States with her family at 19. Before leaving, Dumanetskaya dreaded the thought of uprooting her life. A decade later, when speaking with friends still living in her homeland, she said she is saddened by their stories of working hard yet hardly getting by. Now, she said she couldn’t be happier to be in a land which she still considers to be full of opportunity.

“Here, if you work real hard you’ll have enough to provide for yourself,” Dumanetskaya said.

And work hard she did. Over the past 10 years, she has worked cleaning offices, as a dental assistant and spent a summer selling cars, even learning how to change the oil.

“I could never stay in one spot,” she said. “I need to be my own boss.”

Because of her social nature, she said she needs to work with people — and for them, bettering their lives — to find the inspiration in life.

Northampton, then, was the perfect place for her to put down her entrepreneurial roots. Compared to Chicopee, she said, Northamptonians are much friendlier and operate at a slower pace.

“You get to Northampton and it’s like you’re in a different world,” she explained.

The decision to start the business came on the occasion of her husband’s 30th birthday two years ago.

“I thought ‘I have two years,’ ” she said. “What do I want by 30?”

So, she started working on her goal of owning her own business with an eye always on growth. After taking out a loan to pay for the store’s initial startup costs, Dumanetskaya said her revenue allows her to pay for business expenses, although she’s not yet paying herself. While her cousin or sister often tend the shop when she’s not there, Dumanetskaya has been frequently working 12-hour days between her job in Chicopee and operating the business.

Once she leaves that job, Dumanetskaya said she is also planning to start offering style consulting to her customers. Taking into consideration factors like body type, Dumanetskaya will pick out clothing and do makeup for women looking for a little fashion guidance.

“I love making people beautiful,” she said.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.


 


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