Store embraces philosophy of saving

Kim Forsyth's new retail store, Plato's Closet, has been semi-open for about a month. But it hasn't been selling clothes to customers. Rather, the store keeps busy buying old clothes from customers.

Customers have had a hard time not being able to buy any of the neatly organized, colorful garments, shoes and accessories — all with price tags averaging $10, Forsyth said.

Girls have tried by asking to put items on hold, or even begging and pleading. When all that didn't work, the girls still wouldn't give up.

"I have girls hiding stuff in the winters' department because they want to come back for the grand opening and buy it," Forsyth said. "Isn't that hilarious?"

The 37-year-old Huntington Beach resident hasn't sold a single piece as she builds up her stock, but come Aug. 18, Plato's Closet will officially open for business.

The South Coast Metro-area store, at 3814 S. Bristol St. in Santa Ana, is a national franchise targeting co-ed teenagers to twentysomethings looking to buy or sell gently used, trendy clothes.

Minnesota-based Winmark Corp. has licensed more than 320 Plato's Closets nationwide. The closest store to Orange County used to be in Escondido.

"This has been like a dream for me," Forsyth said. "It's been my baby for like a year, and now it's coming to fruition."

Santa Ana resident Kimberly Izquierdo, 15, came in Wednesday to sell some clothes that were just sitting in her closet, but she couldn't resist browsing the aisles.

Kimberly said the clothes are pretty and, unlike other re-sale shops, aren't "old."

"I already want to buy something," she said.

Employee Jennifer Enriquez, 17, said she is just as excited as the customers for opening day.

When Jennifer found out a Plato's Closet was coming to the area, she bombarded Forsyth with emails asking for a job — even before the store's location was set.

Unlike its competitors, Plato's Closet clothes are affordable for teens who spend their allowance money, Jennifer said.

Reselling clothes, she added, is an Earth-friendly proposition.

"I like the concept of recycling fashion," she said.

Preparing to open the store hasn't been easy.

Starting at 3 a.m., Forsyth begins shooting off emails before dropping her kids off and heading into the office. Her day doesn't end until about 8:30 p.m., when she gets home to tuck her daughter into bed. Her son, though, is usually already fast asleep.

But 80-hour workweeks aren't new for Forsyth, who worked in sales in the financial sector for 13 years before becoming a full-time mom.

For Forsyth, it helps that she is high-energy — which is one reason she decided to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for four years.

"I had to get out of the house," she said. "Too much pent-up energy."

Still, not being with her children hasn't been an easy transition.

"That's the hardest part of opening up this business," she said. "I love it to death, every aspect of it, but leaving the kids is the hardest part."

It was her children — or their clothes piled from floor to ceiling in the spare bedroom — that led Forsyth to look into the re-sale children's clothing business and eventually to Plato's Closet.

She had long wanted to start her own business when she worked in the financial sector, but she had to "keep plodding along trying to pay the bills."

When the family finally did have the money saved up, Forsyth wanted to put it toward something she enjoyed. She wanted to start a business that not only made good sense, but was affordable.

When Saigon fell in April 1975, Forsyth came to the U.S. at age 3. Her family had no money. The only way they could afford new clothes was if they were second-hand.

"We were raised in abject poverty," she said. "I mean, we were really poor in a mobile home and we really had to save our money. My mom always tried to make us look nice, so we went thrift store shopping a lot — a lot. So I can relate to that: moms wanting to have their kids look good for school yet not having the money. Yet here, you can come and pick out a virtually brand-new outfit for 20 bucks."

With opening day — nicknamed "Operation Chaos" by Forsyth and her staff — just around the corner, the store is gearing up for a large crowd.

All staff will be on duty, with Red Bulls — sugar-free and regular — at the ready. The franchise owner will also be making a visit.

Forsyth said she will know within six months to a year whether the store will do well. Eventually, she wants to expand.

"If this does well, and I'll know within a year of two years, I'd like to get into Long Beach," she said.


What: Grand opening of Plato's Closet

When: 10 a.m. Aug. 18

Where: 3814 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana.

Information: or call (714) 549-880

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