Bianca Flair: Consignment on Campus

As a teenager, New York City native Kimberly Newsome’s night out alter-ego was “Bianca.”

“I shopped consignment from a teenager,” said Newsome, who grew up shopping at consignment stores and thrift stores near the universities in New York City. When she moved here 18 years ago, she saw Richmond and VCU’s campus as a budding community, similar to areas of New York City.

That experience inspired Newsome to open Bianca Flair, a consignment store that opened last May at 713 W. Broad St.

“I used to walk by here all the time and saw that it was vacant,” she said. “I did some digging and found out who the owners were.”

Family, friends and church members gave her tons of clothes and with people coming in to consign, it only took three to four months to stock the store.

Bianca Flair has 90-day consignment, which means that after 90 days sellers either retrieve their unsold items or donate them to the store. Sellers also get a 50-percent return – that’s more than most consignment stores!

“All types of folks come in – all the time,” said Newsome. From college students to adults to local high school students, a variety of people shop in her store.

Newsome says the style of the store is “eccentric and eclectic.” There’s lots of jewelry (some handmade!) and other accessories, vintage and modern clothing and shoes. Newsome has four interns to help her out so they can gain experience related to their majors, ranging from Mass Communications to Fashion Design and Merchandising.

“Experience is everything in fashion,” said VCU sophomore and Fashion Merchandising major Victoria Bennett, one of Newsome’s interns.

“The store prepares me for what I want to work in…it teaches me networking, marketing, public relations…it’s like a crash course,” said VCU senior and Creative Advertising and Business Marketing double major Jennifer Burchette, another one of Newsome’s interns.

Newsome uses local models for photo shoots, most of whom attend VCU.

Business isn’t the only thing Newsome is interested in.

“I want to do philanthropic work by doing a reading hour for kids on Saturday morning,” she said. “From 9-9:45 we’re going to have teens from my church read to little ones. Just to sort of…invite the community in.”

And speaking of the community, there’s another thrift store just down the street - Rumors.

“It’ll be a healthy competition which is normal when another retail place opens up…it’s a very diverse location so I feel the diversity in the store,” said Newsome. “I’d like more of a merchant association feel where it felt more neighborly. If I had to say anything was missing...it would be that it doesn’t feel as neighborly as I hoped.”

Rumors co-owner Marshe Wyche seemed to feel the same. “We’re a different kind of business...we buy-sell-trade,” said Wyche. “It’s fashionable versus artistic.”

Meaning that Bianca Flair has a more fashionable taste while Rumors is more focused on the artsy side of clothes. Rumors also has a long-standing reputation as they have been around for seven years.

“I don’t feel I’m losing customers,” said Wyche. “It’s great that people can shop at both places.”

Still, being one of the only consignment and second-hand clothing stores right outside VCU’s campus makes Bianca Flair unique. According to Newsome, she fits right in.

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