La Jolla resale boutiques offer treasures

Like my mother, and her mother before her, I am a bargain shopper. Nothing gets my adrenaline going like a day spent scouting out spectacular finds and terrific deals at thrift stores and resale shops.

Unlike the secondhand dealers of a decade ago, today’s consignment boutiques offer high-quality, designer-brand apparel and accessories for significantly less than retail. Sellers demand that merchandise be in excellent condition, and many times they receive items with the tags still attached.

The thrill of snapping up a NWT (new with tags) Coach purse for a third of what it would have cost at Macy’s is outweighed only by the adventure of discovery. You never know what unique or unusual gems you’ll find when browsing through racks and shelves and bins. Vintage apparel is hugely popular, as are classic fashion pieces, trendy designer gear and jewelry.

La Jolla offers five consignment shops within the Village limits, each delightful and different from the next. If you’ve never experienced the thrill of secondhand shopping, I invite you to visit your hometown consignors.

2nd Act West

7556-B Fay Ave.

(858) 454-6096

Having been in business for more than 23 years, 2nd Act West is one of La Jolla’s oldest resale shops. Owned by Patti Alksne, it is a family operation with sister shops in Iowa and Nebraska.

Previously located on Girard Avenue, Alksne relocated he shop to its current location in March.

Her boutique carries quality women’s clothing in sizes small to plus, casual to elegant, as well as purses, hats, shoes, jewelry and accessories. The clothing ranges from classic designs to popular trends.

“What I’m interested in is what will sell,” Alksne said.

Bargain hunters will appreciate the daily sale items, ranging from 25 to 75 percent off. The affordable prices allow women to experiment with patterns, color and design.

“You can afford to when things don’t cost a million dollars,” she said.

Designer Consigner

920 Kline St. #101

(858) 459-1737

Heidi Larson, owner of Designer Consigner, describes her shop as “upscale resale” with an emphasis on vintage items. Many of her pieces date back to the ‘20s and ‘30s and have been collected from private owners around the world.

“I think people like to search out certain periods,” Larson said.

The store has been in existence for 23 years. Larson bought the shop from its previous owner after working with her for a year, during which time she studied the resale and fur business.

Furs are one of Designer Consigner’s specialties. The store’s displays a variety of full-length coats, stoles and jackets in both natural and artificial fur. Additional inventory is stored in a 2,000-foot, climate-controlled storeroom.

The store features evening wear, estate jewelry, designer wedding dresses, cocktail and prom gowns, cruise wear, vintage clothing, shoes and handbags. Some of the designers Larson carries are Adolfo, Dior, Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Armani.

Echoes Boutique

7705 Fay Ave.

(858) 459-6588

Since August 2004, sisters Natella Popova and Lamara Sigalov have been selling women’s clothing, accessories, shoes, handbags and jewelry.

“We have merchandise from Gap to Chanel,” said Popova.

With women looking for spring and summer fashions, the store is stocked with clothing for weddings, vacations, beach outings, special events and casual gatherings. They offer complete outfits or single pieces to match other wardrobe components.

“Some people look for just the cute dresses,” Popova said. “Some people want more comfortable stuff.”

Echoes has cultivated both a broad customer and consignor base, the former numbering around 4,000 and the latter totaling more than 4,300.

Popova and Sigalov accept items that are in good condition, still in fashion and seasonal.

They carry designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Cobali and Chanel. Price is based on the original cost, condition and demand, but shoppers can always find sales, Popova said. After 30 days, the price is marked down 20 percent and then marked down 50 percent after 45 days.

Many of the shop’s clients are repeat customers, some from as far away as Chicago. Popova and Sigalov pride themselves on individualized service and gladly assist clients when they’re looking for something special.

Encore of La Jolla

7655 Girard Ave.

(858) 454-7540

Suzanne Whittemore has an eye for fashion. More than 20 years as a general manager at Sak’s taught her a lot about high-end clothing and accessories.

A bad experience at a local consignment shop inspired Whittemore to use that expertise to create a resale shop that would offer consumers not only department store-quality merchandise but also superior service, cleanliness and a simple consignment process.

“I realized that there was such an obvious niche in this market for designer and top of the line merchandise in its own wonderful boutique atmosphere,” she said.

Whittemore and her husband Rob have owned and operated Encore of La Jolla for 17 years, fulfilling all of their goals and more.

Their philosophy of paying up front for designer apparel and accessories attracts a high number of consigners and allows the Whittemores to offer an extensive array of merchandise.

“We’re selling to the people we thought we’d be buying from,” Rob Whittemore said. “This store has changed a lot of attitude in La Jolla.”

More than 80 percent of their sales are to wealthy and career women in a high salary bracket.

Known for their inventory of purses, Encore also sells men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories in “excellent condition” from designers like Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnick, Hermes, Prada, Fendi, Gucci, Celine and Escada. Whittemore also offers sample items she buys from “her friend” David Hayes.

Le Chauvinist

7709 Fay Ave.

(858) 456-0117

Le Chauvinist is the only consignment store in San Diego exclusively for men.

Proprietor Salvador Viesca has worked in the store for nine years, although his career spans decades.

“In one way or another, I’ve been connected to men’s clothing since November 1969,” he said.

The men’s only boutique offers an eclectic array of merchandise, ranging from cashmere overcoats and cowboy boots to Panama hats and tuxedos.

“I sell so many Panama hats here that they pay my rent between April and August,” Viesca said.

The shop carries its own brands, American Chauvinist and Le Chauvinist, as well as brand-new sample and closeout items, and consignment apparel. Some of the most popular items are leather jackets, Aloha shirts and designer apparel. The store carries Dobbs and Stetson hats, Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Garcia ties, shoes by Alan Edmonds, Faragamo and Gucci, and clothing by Brioni, Armani, Robert Talbot, Eton, Burberry and Bruno Magli.

Vintage and retro clothing is especially popular.

“If I got leisure suits in here I could sell them,” Viesca said. “I’m always keeping an eye out for funky stuff.”