A few blocks south of Northtown mall on North Division a passerby may notice a smartly dressed mannequin in the front of a small thrift store, but not look twice. This building happens to be a treasure chest of name brand clothes such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Gap, Banana Republic, and Ralph Lauren, sold at prices lower than even clearance sales at large department stores.
The recycled clothing store Llumination was opened in 1997 by two young women, but only one still owns the store, 25-year-old Maria Sturgeon.
The concept for Llumination was formed when a friend of Sturgeon’s asked her to help open this store. Sturgeon had worked in a similar store while she was in high school and had always been interested in used and vintage fashion.
After many years of going to yard sales “I realized I had bags and bags of clothes,” Sturgeon said.
Her partner left after about 9 months for personal reasons, but Sturgeon is still around and handles being a mother of two girls, a wife, a student at EWU, and the owner of this very unique store.
About two years ago she opened another shop similar to Llumination, but with more hippie, India, and hemp clothes. It was opened for about a year and “went really well,” but Sturgeon closed it down because supervising both stores “got to be too much work.”
Llumination has been spared a similar fate as the other store because Sturgeon says she has a real bond with the store.
“I have this connection with it,” she adds.
There will be a time in the near future when Sturgeon has to make the difficult decision about what she wants to do with Llumination, because next fall will be her last quarter at Eastern as she finishes up her Education degree.
Sturgeon said that she had thought about selling it, but would hate to sell it to someone she doesn’t like. She’ll be sad to shut it down if it comes down to that.
But, for now, Llumination is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and offers customers the opportunity to trade in clothes.
“About 80% of inventory comes in through trading,” Sturgeon informed. They decide what they can or can’t use and then give the customer a percentage of what they’re going to market – about a third – and then the customer can use that as in-store credit.
Sturgeon explains that they used to give cash, but most of the customers would just turn around and use the money to buy something else in the store. She said that they very rarely give cash – only on special occasions.
This “retro-hippie-funk” store – as Sturgeon called it – is unique because Sturgeon is a girl, “and the other stores are owned by older men.”
“For me, a fifty-year-old man trying to sell me clothes is completely insane,” Sturgeon laughed.
Sturgeon also points out that she is “anal retentive” about keeping Llumination clean. She knows how other thrift stores have that smell.
“I try to keep it really clean and wash the clothes,” she chuckled. “I make sure there’s no mothball smell.”
Since Sturgeon is such a young business woman, it is easy for her to relate to her clientele – with homework, studying, and the common stress of young adulthood – and gives her something to discuss with them while they are shopping.
Sturgeon hopes to see more people with diverse ethnic backgrounds shop at Llumination.
“I’d like to learn about different cultures,” Sturgeon confesses in reference to her wanting more of the Japanese exchange students to come in. “It’s fun for me.”
There is also an immense desire for more men and men’s clothing in the store. Sturgeon encourages girls to bring in their boyfriends, or even just their clothes.
Who knows how much longer Llumination may be open, because Sturgeon turned her career toward Education rather than business or fashion.
“I’ve gotten a taste of it (owning a business),” Sturgeon said. “I don’t have it in me.”
So, go through your closets, pick out those winter clothes – let’s cross our fingers there will be no more snow – and head to Llumination, the recycled clothing store in Spokane.