Teen Boutique in Port Chester gives second life to donated clothing

2 weeks ago

PORT CHESTER — Ruther Esther Gomez, a 17-year-old student at Greenburgh Academy in Yonkers, was excited to shop for some new threads— after all, she hadn’t been able to afford new clothes in “a long time”. It’s just not always feasible in her family’s budget, and they don’t always have access to helpful services.

The Teen Boutique at 47 Purdy Avenue in Port Chester aims to ease access to clothing for Westchester teens like Gomez. The shop is an expansion of The Sharing Shelf, a non-profit clothing bank with a mission of providing free clothes to local children in need, and complements the organization’s Teen Boutique pop-up program.

Founded in 2009, The Sharing Shelf has grown from a basement in Rye to the 8,000-square foot warehouse on Purdy Avenue. The addition of The Teen Boutique not only offers a true shopping experience, it also aims to boost customers’ self-esteem.

Greenburgh students recently took a shopping trip to The Teen Boutique to score new sneakers, prom dresses and more.

Clothing insecurity on the rise in Westchester

Greenburgh Academy brings children to The Teen Boutique a “few times a month”, according to teacher’s aide Laura Azzone. “They’re able to just pick out new clothes, have the shopping experience that a lot of them don’t usually have.” She said. The amount of variety is also nice, Azzone said, noting that the boutique is “really clean” and organized.

Clothing insecurity has been growing in Westchester. In 2023, The Sharing Shelf received more than 5,500 applications for teen and children’s clothing, a 300% increase from 2020.

“For many of these families, clothing for growing children, new school supplies, and other basic necessities like new socks, new underwear and basic hygiene become luxuries they struggle to afford,” according to the organization’s website.

According to a news release from The Sharing Shelf, “children who are clothing insecure are more likely to be bullied by their peers and miss school, “so they fall back academically”. Studies show that school attendance and academic performance improve in students provided with clean clothing, the release says.

“The challenge we found is that teens need clothing not just when you have an event, there were also times of emergency and special occasions,” said Deborah Blatt, founder and executive director of The Sharing Shelf.

The goal, Blatt said, is to create a space that teenagers would want to walk into. Thanks to an $80,000 grant through Impact100 Westchester program that covers the rent and other expenses, Blatt was able to start designing the store in June 2023. To make it look like a quality boutique, clothes are displayed by size and color and hang on customized hangers.

“We really want to have a place where it looks and feels just like any store in a mall. It’s a place that allows a teen to feel welcome and empowered,” said Blatt.

The Sharing Shelf relies on donations to provide clothes to children aged up to 19 years old referred by more than 100 schools and nonprofits. More than 75% of the funding is from individuals in the community. Shoppers can pick clothes twice a year in different categories ranging from leggings to jeans, t-shirts, prom attire and more.

“We look forward to connecting with schools and nonprofit organizations that work with low-income teens to know the store accessible to their students and clients,” said Blatt. “We’re excited to bring this new approach to addressing clothing insecurity.”

The boutique can set up appointments with teens to get their outfit for prom, graduation or even a “spring or summer wardrobe”, Blatt said. While the boutique does not work directly with families or individuals, those interested in learning more (in English or Spanish) about the services they provide can email info@sharingshelf.org or call 914-305-5950 to be connected with their community partners.

The opportunity to shop for anything from leggings to prom dresses, at no cost, at the new boutique is worth more than the original cost of the clothing.

“It makes me feel good.” Gomez said.

Helu Wang covers development and real estate for The Journal News/lohud and USA Today Network. Reach her at hwang@gannett.com.…Read more by Helu Wang


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *