By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography by Aaron Patton
Sara Hobson likes doors with character and she likes bringing things back to life. The physical space of her Recycled Threads store – an upscale consignment fashion store – reflects that.
To enter the second-story shop in the brick building on the northeast corner of Douglas and Washington, you’ll need to go through a frosted glass door with a yellow-gold motif. The door is sandwiched between a Legacy Bank branch and a financial adviser’s office.
Just like she’d been drawn to her College Hill home’s unique copper front door, Hobson had spotted the door as she would cruise up and down Douglas Avenue a couple of years ago, looking for a space to move Recycled Threads from her house.
She wanted a place with character, a place where she could be creative, and the door seemed to offer that potential. The Douglas Design District – a 3-mile stretch from Washington to near Oliver – has more than 300 locally owned business, many of them focused on design and other creative endeavors.
Hobson also wanted a place that was sort of tucked away and not a storefront. She wanted it to feel like shoppers had wandered into a big walk-in closet, ready to make an affordable fashion-find of a top or trending designer, from Chanel to J. Crew. The place was originally going to be a small studio apartment, but Hobson convinced the owner to let her turn it into a retail space of about 600 square feet.
With the move of the business she started in 2010 out of her home, Hobson gave a Douglas Design District space and fixtures from Bricks – a former longtime Wichita clothing shop – a new purpose. The shop is open to the public on the district’s popular Second Saturday market days and on the preceding Friday, and also by appointment.
A native Wichitan, Hobson started working in retail after earning a communications degree from the University of Kansas. A former buyer for Lyndon’s boutique in Wichita, Hobson set up Recycled Threads after the birth of her first daughter. The business was an ideal way to stay in the fashion retail industry, while taking on new mother duties.
A door had opened for a new business opportunity to give clothing and accessories new life.
Always on the hunt for a bargain and wanting to pass that opportunity on to others, Hobson said, “I am one of those shoppers who loves high-end clothing but I feel it needs to be affordable.”
Her inventory is primarily curated from the closets of women who ask for her help for various reasons, from wanting to downsize their closets, move out items they purchased and never wore, or focus on maintaining a wardrobe that better suits them.
When she does what she calls “closet consultations,” she helps find homes for no longer needed or wanted items, whether it’s in her own shop or with philanthropic organizations like Dress for Success or the Assistance League.
After having a second daughter, she realized the shop required its own space, where she could stage and photograph her inventory and process online orders. Even now with a physical retail shop, about 80 percent of her sales are from online orders. Before Hobson opened her shop on Douglas, Wichitans could physically shop her goods at pop-up stores she would set up in other retail spaces.
Many of her items are marked 50 percent or less off original retail prices. Pieces by higher-end labels such as Chanel, Gucci or Fendi can command higher prices.
As a customer perused the racks of clothing in Hobson’s store – eventually purchasing a dark periwinkle summer dress and matching shoes, Hobson talked enthusiastically about being a small business owner in Wichita. It’s a job she finds challenging as a sole proprietor, yet exciting and empowering.
She’s become an advocate for other business owners who want to strike out on their own, particularly those who come to the Douglas Design District. Business owners in the district have become a forward-thinking microcosm of Wichita, looking to bring a stronger identity and more vibrancy to the area.
“You have to have confidence in yourself, love what you do and take time for networking. Networking is important. It’s good to surround yourself with others who want to accomplish the same things,” Hobson advised.
She likes contributing to the economic and social fabrics of Wichita pride underway. She gets enthusiastic about fashion events that happen in Wichita and says there needs to be more of them.
For example, shortly after she opened her space on Douglas, Cameron Silver, a well-known H by Halston fashion director and curator, stopped in her shop when he was in town for a trunk show that coincided with the Ulrich Museum’s “Coded Culture” exhibit. In July, Hobson collaborated with another business owner for the LevelUp event’s well-received fashion show, which was staged on the rooftop of a parking garage during the celebration for Wichita’s 148th birthday.
“It’s so cool how many strong women business owners there are in Wichita,” Hobson said. “It’s something to keep an eye on and it’s just beginning. I have two daughters of my own, so this is empowering to see.”