When Collective Habit owner Ashley O'Leary got into a car accident, she turned a lemon into lemonade and used the insurance money to open her secondhand boutique last month.
The new Laguna Niguel store is a family affair: Ashley O'Leary owns it with her husband, Mitch. Their two daughters, an infant and a toddler, frequently make appearances as patrons peruse the racks of gently worn, stylish clothing sold at affordable prices. Mitch's cousin, Jené Raes, is a partner.
"It's great when you can come here with $100 and leave with a whole wardrobe," said Mitch, 29. "At Nordstrom you can barely walk away with a pair of pants."
The space, previously home to a deli, was just cement and bare walls when they signed the lease. The couple worked hard leading up to the Jan. 2 opening, installing hardwood floors, hanging art and mirrors, and putting together racks.
Scarves colorfully hang by the cash register, while heels, sandals, boots and sneakers line the floor below it.
"We didn't want it to look secondhand, but more like a boutique," Mitch said. "We know that South County ladies are sophisticated."
The couple were previously partners in the Doheny Clothing Exchange in Capistrano Beach, but decided to go a different route by opening their own store.
Ashley, 27, said it was time that South County had a store like the Collective Habit. She admits that she has always been a fan of secondhand clothes because, frankly, she can't afford the brands she likes at full price.
She said the response to the store has been great; she even had a few people screaming.
"People are really excited," she said.
After a customer walked out Wednesday morning, Ashley shouted, "I need to go shopping today!"
She said she says that whenever someone walks out of the store empty-handed. Although probably not possible, she wants to find a piece for every person who walks into their store.
With Nuclear Comics next door, the couple fielded quite a few inquiries from men about their clothes and took notice.
Right now the boutique is mostly for women, but it's currently collecting men's inventory and Mitch said a men's section is on its way.
As soon as the shop is profitable, the couple hopes to open another store in Orange County and perhaps more from there.
Collective Habit is at 28985 Golden Lantern #B106.
For more information, visit collective-habit.com.