Ice Cream Fore-U Owners Rescue Abby’s Closet at 11th Hour

Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2018

West Lebanon — Abby’s Closet has a new home.

The popular West Lebanon resale store for children’s, maternity and women’s clothing was on the verge of going out of business last week when owner Katie Chase was able to secure a new location at the 11th hour in the former Encore Books space in the Staples shopping plaza.

“I’m emotionally zapped,” said Chase from behind the counter at her store on Interchange Drive. “My prayers have been answered, that’s for sure.”

Chase had already posted signs and announced on her store’s Facebook page that she was closing the store because she had lost her lease as a result of the sale of the building to new owners. Chase had given up hope of finding a new location which her small store could afford when the Johnson family, owners of the Staples plaza across the road, stepped up to save the day.

The outpouring of support from Abby’s Closet’s loyal customers when they heard that the store would be closing convinced the Johnson family that it was important to provide a new home for the store, said Meredith Johnson.

“Seeing the community need and desire for Abby’s Closet to continue operating just made it seem like a perfect match,” saidJohnson, who with her sister, Jennifer, operates Ice Cream Fore-U in the Home Depot plaza and whose family controls several of the commercial properties along stretches of Route 12A in West Lebanon.

“Witnessing Katie Chase’s love and zeal for her store and customers makes us certain we have made the right decision offering her the space. We hope we bring that same passion to running our businesses and we applaud her dedication,” Johnson added.

The news took Chase by surprise and overwhelmed her in an emotional public expression of gratitude.

Chase posted a video of herself on the store’s Facebook page in which, choking up through tears and clutching her hand to her chest, she announced that she had just “got a call” from commercial real estate broker Bruce Waters. He told her that “the guy who owns the Staples plaza ... saw the outpouring of kindness from the community for Abby’s Closet and that none of you want us to go” and he “made an amazing offer that we can afford. … It’s all because of you and your support that they are doing this for us. It’s not just for me. It’s for all of us. So we are not going to close. God bless.”

Earlier in the week, Chase said the building on Interchange Drive where the store has been located was sold and her space is being taken over by a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company. The building was sold by Rich and Sallie Houle, who also own Beverage King next door.

But Chase, who opened Abby’s Closet in 2007 on Miracle Mile before moving to West Lebanon seven years ago, said she had been unable to find an affordable new location and was resigned that the store’s 11-year run had come to its end.

“Everything is pretty much in the $3,000 to $7,000 per month range. For a little store like me, that’s impossible,” she said.

Abby’s Closet provides a low-cost clothing option for young and growing families.

The store’s financial model is unique: People who donate clothing receive an in-store credit for the value of their donation, which they can apply to the purchase of other clothes. Store income is then generated through the cash sales of clothing.

Unsold items are donated to different charities and nonprofits. “Nothing ends up in the landfill,” Chase said.

Abby’s Store is named after Chase’s daughter, Abby, who was 18 months old when the store opened and is now 10. Her colorful handprints decorate the store’s checkout counter.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.