People of Hamilton recently got the opportunity to talk to Beth Mair, owner of 7th Heaven Fashion Exchange in Dundas, one of my newly discovered and favourite second-hand stores in the city.
Formerly called Second Debut, Candy’s Closet, and the Nu-2-U, the store underwent many changes before falling into Beth Mair’s hands and changing from a consignment store to buy-up-front format. 7th Heaven buys and sells gently used clothing, footwear, hats, jewellery, and accessories. The store also has a special currency – called mad money – that customers can accept instead of cash for buyouts (when they are selling items to the store) and can later use when shopping.
For the past two years, the store has taken the top spot in Hamilton Reader’s Choice Awards for the best consignment store. We talked to Mair about her shop and her intention to “make people feel like they were shopping at a friend’s home rather than a typical retail store.”
When did you start 7th Heaven Fashion Exchange?
In August of 2011. What happened was I came here to help the previous owner and she opened up a second shop. The idea was that she was going to run that shop, and she wanted me to run this one and then in the midst of all that she decided that rather than own both of them she wanted to sell this one. I had been out of the workforce for 20 years so I didn’t really have any business buying a business but it was a good fit for me so that’s how I got here.
Have you always lived in Dundas?
Actually, I was born in Quebec and moved here when I was seven so I’ve lived here most of my life and moved away a couple of times over the years for jobs but I always came home to Dundas. This will always be home to me, my parents are here, my friends are here. I love the town, it’s a great place to raise a family. It’s a hidden gem, there’s lots of beautiful stores now. The other consignment stores and I work great together and we send people to one another.
If you could change anything about the operation or the design of the store, what would it be?
If I could change anything it would certainly be that I would like more space. Certain times of the year it can become overcrowded. It’s still fairly spacious compared to a lot of similar style stores but the good thing is that I’m walking distance to downtown. Because I’m on the ground floor of a residential building my signage is restricted, I would like to have more noticeable signage. More space would be good, but I love being in Dundas I like the idea that you come into the building and then come into my store. If I was younger I might entertain the idea of opening up a second location some place then it would become like real work, so this is the level I’m comfortable at right now.
How did you come up with the name for your store?
This location has been a consignment store for many years. It was originally called Second Debut, and then Candy’s Closet then New to You. Then when I purchased it, I changed it and I came up with the name because I wanted something that really meant something to me. My brother visited from out West when I first opened and he walked in the door and said “Oh, you must be in seventh heaven,” and I said, “You just named my store.” That’s what I was waiting for. I was waiting for a name that was perfect for me because this is seventh heaven for me, I feel like I haven’t worked a day since I bought the store.
What sort of experience do you hope donators and shoppers get from coming here?
You know that was one of the most important things to me when I bought the business. It wasn’t necessarily about making money, it was more about providing a place that was a warm and friendly atmosphere combined with good quality clothing at a great price. For me, it was all about creating a place that people walked in and they got a really good vibe. Right from day one there’s always been customers come in, and I’ve always got a pot of coffee on, they have coffee while they’re shopping. It’s just a really a cool chick hang out place. People tell me that all the time they say “I always feel better after visiting than when I came in, even if I didn’t find anything,” because I always introduce customers to one another. There’s always great conversation that goes on here and there’s always great music on. When it’s busy it’s like a shopping party, it’s a lot of fun and I have a great relationship with my customers. It’s a warm and friendly atmosphere, that’s really what was paramount for me. Customer service is everything to me.
VIsit 7th Heaven Fashion Exchange at 23 Main Street, Dundas