Before Hanadi Hamzeh opened Covet, a brand new “eco-friendly” consignment shop that she hopes will serve to bolster and improve the shopping scene in South Boston, she was working in a lab at Mass General Hospital. A recent Northeastern grad with a degree in Medical Laboratory Science might seem like an unlikely candidate for the job of sole proprietor, buyer and style arbiter of a hip downtown boutique but, if you ask Hamzeh, fashion has been in her blood for as long as she can remember. We caught up with the 27-year-old shortly after the soft opening of her new store, amid the excitement and bustle of the shop’s first — busy, she says — couple of weeks in business to talk shop (literally) and personal style.
Where did you get the idea to open this store?
I was there [MGH] for two years, and I loved it, but I always wanted to do something else. There was something driving me the other way. So I quit my job and started selling clothes online last year. I’m a shopaholic and when I was at MGH I used to sell clothes online, just kind of like on the side. I would shop a lot, find the deals, put stuff online and make a few bucks on each thing. So at one point I decided that I want to do what I love full time. I quit my job and expanded my eBay store to a full store with like 500 items, under the name Style Boss, and I did that for about a year, always thinking I would do something else. Then I decided to open a consignment shop because it seemed like the next best option.
Was opening a brick and mortar, all on your own, hard?
Everything has been a learning experience for me, because I don’t have business background and I barely have a retail background. Opening a regular boutique is really risky. Not for nothing, I don’t pay full price for anything. I love to shop and I love good deals. I don’t think it’s fair if I open a shop and sell all these full price clothes when that’s not the way that I shop. So I asked myself where would I want to shop, and I thought a consignment store, what a perfect idea.
Tell us a little about the store.
I took my time figuring out exactly what I wanted the aesthetic of the store [to be]. When I first started out I wanted to be industrial chic. But by the end it was all white, contemporary, modern. It took me so long to get to this point, but it ended up being perfect!
Did you do this all DIY or did you hire people?
Nope, everything was me! I busted my thumb doing some of it. A good portion of my fixtures are actually second-hand. All my mannequins, my ottoman, my mirror — a lot of this stuff is second-hand because I’m a green shop and it’s a consignment store. My motto is “lets act like it”.
How was the opening day?
It was wonderful. Women of South Boston kept coming up to me and saying “We’ve been waiting for you to come.” There aren’t any boutiques on this side of Southie. They’re all on the east or west sides. It’s really spacious in here and the racks aren’t packed in together. It’s like a boutique, clean, modern and chic. I really try to curate the clothing so that everything is modern and in great condition, and lot of this stuff is new.
What are some of the standards you have when you’re looking for pieces?
Condition is number one. It all has to be in great condition. But other than that it’s all modern, fun pieces. Things that when girls walk in they look through the rack, they get excited about it. There’s a smattering of vintage in here as well, and that’s exciting. You know, things that are just fun and exciting and fashion forward. Colorful. Stuff that sparks people’s interest. Obviously designer brands.
How about price points?
They are excellent. The women that come in here, the first thing they say is, “I hope things are going to be reasonable.” I price things the way I would shop. And I’m a bargain hunter. At the end of the day, If something was priced for $600, no one is going to pay that. I try my best to make everything reasonable, around $25-75. I’m really proud because it doesn’t really feel like a consignment shop. No cluttered racks. Normal consignment stores are usually packed and have that funny smell!
You also call yourself a sustainable shop. What does that entail?
I’m as green as I can be. Consignment in itself is green already. You’re reusing clothes. It’s a green option. So I figured, lets push it. I try and live an eco-friendly lifestyle as much as I can, so that’s why a lot of my fixtures came second-hand. Scouring Craigslist for these second-hand racks and mannequins was a pain in the butt — it’s so much easier to buy new stuff — but it was totally worth it. Our light fixtures are energy efficient, all of our paper products including receipts, bags, they are all recycled materials. I tried to make it a really happy shop. We’re a boutique with a heart. We try to be budget friendly, eco-friendly and ethical. I’m not selling fur. And my dog is here at all times with me. She’s a Chihuahua, named Olive. She’s the love of my life. (laughs)
Who is your target customer?
The best part about consignment is that you cater to everyone. I can cater to a mother and her daughter. Because the consigners are both 20 year olds and 55 and 60 year olds. You get a little of everything and that’s what I think is the best thing about consignment shops. You don’t necessarily have niche. The niche is a woman who loves designer clothes and doesn’t want to spend a lot. I have the standard, young Southie professionals, who want a cute dress for going out. I also get a lot of grandmothers coming in, and they’ll buy the scarves. I’ve gotten everything, the whole gamut.
What are the staple items that you would spend more on, that every woman should have in her closet?
Women should always invest in their bag and their shoes. As long as you have a great bag and great shoes, but your dress comes from Forever 21, you’re fine. Your bag and shoes are always what you should invest in. In the winter of course, it ‘s your jacket. Those are the staples. These are items where luxury shows. With a great jacket, a beautiful, well-made, well-fitting coat is going to do wonders, and make you look way more amazing, than a cheap coat. Some things you can pretend, some things you can’t. Like an $80 t-shirt? Can you really tell that the t-shirt is $80? I don’t think so.
How would you describe your personal style?
I go for high quality pieces. So I don’t have a lot of clothes. I really like high quality clothes, but I guess my style is a little boho. Very relaxed — Boston BOHO. Still clean cut, but like Boston, certainly not like LA.