When Silver Spring resident Bahia Akerele decided to open a consignment shop, she wanted more than an 'ordinary' store: She wanted to create a space "transcending the everyday shopping experience," helping people to "dream and to live a new life."
From that concept, "On the Purple Couch: A Consignment Experience," was born.
The store's motto, "renew, reuse and conserve," printed on its outside window, is also its philosophy, says Akerele. On the shop's website she describes it as "a store with a purpose and a mission... a mix of my life and my experiences of living in some of the most beautiful places in the world... combined with a passion for living and doing good."
The shop carries better-quality used clothing--including designer labels--at affordable prices, says Akerele. Located on Bonifant Street, it opened quietly in May, followed by a weekend of grand opening festivities including music, food, an open house and a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to clothing, the store also features Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (by British interior designer Annie Sloan), used to refurbish furniture. "The paint is awesome," says Akerele. "We are the licensed retailer [of the paint] in the Silver Spring area." The shop also carries Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soap, a line of handmade, natural-ingredient soaps.
A child of African parents, owner Akerele lived and traveled to cities around the world--including Paris, Dakar, Vienna, Lisbon and New York--before deciding to settle in the Washington, DC, area. After spending years working for nonprofit foundations, Akerele says she knew she wanted to switch careers. She dreamed of opening a business, but it kept getting postponed, until major back surgery --and a year-long recovery--forced her to make changes.
Patch sat down with Akerele to find out more about her shop and life-changing experience:
Patch: Tell us more about what lead you to open a consignment store.
Akerele: "I had major back surgery [in 2008]--including spinal fusion and decompression. I literally lost a year of my life in recovery."
"I met my husband while recovering. I knew I wanted to have a baby, and needed something with more control. I started looking for a business. I settled on a consignment, because I like clothes shopping, and I come from a nonprofit background. They connected-- fashion, clothes, re-using, re-purposing, conserving. I like all that!"
Patch: What was your concept for the store?
Akerele: "It's a consignment experience. The store feels good, smells good -- that's what I wanted. I wanted to create a space to be comfortable in... to bring nice clothes to Silver Spring, at a nice price.
Patch: Where does the name "On the Purple Couch" come from?
Akerele: When I was thinking about the store, brainstorming, I knew I wanted a purple couch in the store. While [a group] were trying to think of store names, we kept coming back to that... the name was divine intervention.
Patch: So, where is the "purple couch?"
"We are still looking for her! The purple couch will come. I'll know when I find it!"
Patch: What type of items do you carry?
Akerele: "We carry good quality clothes--Valentino to Ann Taylor Loft, to Eileen Fisher, Ferragamo--it's awesome! We also have men's clothes, and accessories and jewelry."
Patch: Do you carry some unique items?
Akerele: "We have beautiful purses evening bags, necklaces, statement jewelry. Most of the jewelry is retail. A very nice, well-chosen selection. Sometimes we have furniture, some smaller pieces.
Patch: What's the process if someone wants to sell something on consignment?
Akerele: "Right now we're taking spring and summer clothes. We want higher-quality clothes, all dry-cleaned and ready to go. We determine price. It's a 60/40 split (60 percent store/40 percent to consignee). After 60 days, the customer has five days to retrieve their items if they wish.
Patch: Has the Silver Spring community been receptive?
Akerele: "We've had good reception so far. My husband and I have been in Silver Spring a few years--we're homeowners, neighbors. My husband has a law office here. The community is incredible! People here support local businesses."
"We welcome everyone to come in and take a look, support a local Silver Spring mom and business."
On the Purple Couch is located at 955 Bonifant Street. For more information or if you are interested in consigning, visit onthepurplecouch.com or call 301-565-0010.