“We literally went home and started gathering things from around the house, and asking our parents for items.”
Small businesses have probably never faced as difficult a time as they do today. Rose JP, a consignment store owned by Carina Lopez and her husband, is adapting to face these challenges and can’t wait to re-open their doors for in-person shopping!
Where are you from?
Carina: I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when I was 12 years old. A lot of people don’t know this, but my family was homeless and we moved from town to town throughout my teen years. Now I live in Jamaica Plain.
Was is your goal to open a consignment store?
Carina: Yes and no. While I always envisioned owning a store, this was not the original plan. When my husband John and I signed the commercial lease to our first storefront, over on Heath Street [Rose JP is now located at 484B Centre Street], the idea was to open “Mixed Use,” JP’s first creative co-working space. We had no knowledge about zoning codes, which we now know you must research prior to signing a commercial lease. We discovered that the legal use of the space was for retail only! If we wanted to do the creative space, it could have taken up to a year to go through a change of zoning code while having our doors closed. We couldn’t afford to do that. There was no backup plan so we had to quickly pivot. John was like, “well, if the only thing we can do is sell stuff let’s start selling stuff!” We literally went home and started gathering things from around the house and asking our parents for items. Just like that John opened the doors to “Shop 51 Heath,” an indoor yard sale. Fortunately, the feedback from the community was really good and they also started donating items.
I had a full-time job at the time. John asked me to come on board and help in the store, so I quit my job. But I hated the way he was doing business—his presentation, that is! Even though I never ran a store before, I’ve been working as a marketing consultant for more than five years with other small businesses. We took a step back to analyze what was working and what wasn’t. We noticed our primary shoppers were women so we consolidated our focus and rebranded to “Rose JP.” The name is inspired by our 4-year-old CEO Rose, whose middle and last name initials also go with Jamaica Plain, so to us it was a sign in the right direction.
Also, since my first retail job was at a consignment store, I thought it would be nice to introduce consignment. Many women were expressing that they had items they will not wear again but are too nice to donate.
Do you know what’s funny? John and I met while shopping at T.J. Maxx. Who knew that we would have started our own store together later in life haha!
How did you connect with JPNDC?
Carina: Last summer, JPNDC had started construction on 61 Heath Street (now Hattie Kelton Apartments) and some staff passed by the store. Carlos Espinoza-Toro [JPNDC Small Business Services Director] introduced himself and said he was very intrigued by this store in the middle of a construction area. After that we started working with him on how to further develop the business. He definitely helped us understand our finances because we literally had no plan when we started. Working with Carlos helped us better plan for success in the new store.
Tell me about Rose JP. How does it stand out?
Carina: A lot of secondhand stores are known to be very disorganized with unpleasant scents. I wanted to create a space where it’s clean, smells like roses and makes you feel like you’re shopping in a high-end boutique without the high-end prices. Most importantly, we have created a space where women of color can feel welcomed, supported and encouraged. I personally feel that most consignment stores don’t cater to our communities, which is why I wanted to bring one right to the neighborhood.
Our style is contemporary. We don’t do vintage. I think it’s a great combination for the community because there’s already a vintage consignment store here in JP called 40 South.
What was the idea behind painting both stores in your trademark pink color?
Carina: Our Heath Street store was the only store on the whole street and didn’t have much foot traffic. When we rebranded to Rose JP I felt it would help bring in more attention. Pink is a color that attracts most women by default. Once we opened on Centre Street, we decided to paint the store inside pink to keep the theme and also because we weren’t allowed to paint the outside.
How does consignment work in Rose JP?
Carina: How consignment works is that people leave their items at the store for sale and once someone buys it, the “consignor” earns a percentage of the sale. You can see the explanation on our website.
We currently have over 150 consignors. You would be surprised about how many items come in new with tags! So even if we get something new with tags, you could find it up to 90% off retail.
I’ve heard borrowing clothes or buying secondhand clothes is very trendy right now. Do you find that to be true?
Carina: Because we are seeing the effects of global warming and climate change, everyone is being more conscious about what they buy and how. The media says it is “the rise of the environmentally-conscious consumer.” With the cost of living being so high, it is only natural for us to look for ways to save money and shopping secondhand is one of them while also making extra income when consigning.
How are you getting the word out? Any special promotions or events?
Carina: We like to host events and collaborate with other businesses and local creatives to offer complementing services. Recently we had Kaufman Pearl Design, a JP jewelry designer, doing repairs in-store. We had planned for her to come twice per month. Due to COVID-19 we had to postpone all events until further notice including a “Girls Night Out Open Mic” where many of our talented clients perform stand up comedy, poetry and more. We love to engage the community!
As of March 15th and until at least May 4th, our physical store is closed but we now have an online store! We are offering free local delivery in Boston. We are also posting frequently on our social media sites and started a new series called “Closet Confessions” where you can show some of your favorite items on Instagram live. On Friday April 10th at 7 pm, we are partnering with Boston influencer/blogger Elissa from “Style Wire.” She’ll show her closet confessions and people could shop for her items as well!
Looking toward the future, what do you see for Rose JP?
Carina: Right now our focus is to continue to build this store, make it better each day and hopefully soon be able to hire employees. We may consider introducing menswear and children’s clothes down the line since we get asked a lot. Our dream would be to have many Rose JPs throughout the city.
We are working hard to survive the pandemic and be able to continue serving our community once this passes.
Learn about JPNDC’s Small Business Services here and how we’re operating during the quarantine here.