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York sisters draw business inspiration from cancelled nuptials
With an unused wedding dress in hand and the special date scratched from the calendar, two York County sisters turned an unwelcome reminder of what could have been into a surprisingly successful consignment business.
Trying to turn the corner by offloading a never-worn, unwanted dress, the sisters searched for local consignment shops and bridal stores that would buy the expensive gown but found that the closest store was in Philadelphia.
Instead of jumping in the car for a two-hour drive to the City of Brotherly Love, Angelica Friend and her older sister Bobbi Friend-Buchmyer had a different idea.
Friend, of Manchester Township, and Friend-Buchmyer, of West Manchester Township, started Twice Upscale Resale in March 2014 after Friend's wedding plans unraveled. The pair signed a month-to-month lease on a 1,000-square-foot storefront in West York.
Last March, Twice Upscale Resale reopened a block away at 1320 W. Market St., a location with more than twice the floor space of the former shop, in a move that “probably doubled the (customer) traffic,” Friend-Buchmyer said.
Now, several weeks after celebrating the shop’s third anniversary and its first at the larger location, Friend, 30, and Friend-Buchmyer, 37, are gearing up for the prom-season sales rush.
Sisters Angelica Friend and Bobbi Friend-Buchmyer talk about how Twice Upscale Resale was founded
The co-owners have full-time jobs outside the shop, so the shop is only open for several hours a day from Wednesday to Sunday.
But that hasn’t slowed down business, with shoppers coming from across the region for a chance to find savings at the formal-wear-only consignment shop.
“We’ve had prom shoppers since November,” Friend-Buchmyer said, adding that the shop has reached many early bird customers through its targeted social-media advertising. “There are tons of times where we’ve shown up to open the store and girls are waiting at the door.”
Twice Upscale Resale is open for business from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Silver lining: After getting engaged in 2013, Friend said she “went through the motions” of planning a wedding — securing a venue and finding “the perfect dress” — before the big day was called off.
Several months later, Friend was determined to get rid of the dress and tried searching for online buyers before giving up and looking into consignment shops.
After finding zero consignment shops in south-central Pennsylvania to recoup some of the $1,300 that her parents spent on her wedding dress, a “light bulb went off” in Friend's mind.
“Why don’t we do something where we resell just formal wear for women?” Friend-Buchmyer recalled of her sister’s entrepreneurial epiphany. “We wear these dresses one time, and then they pretty much hang in your closet.”
Soon after, Friend's $1,300 dress became the first piece in inventory at Twice Upscale Resale.
Growing up in a family of girls, Friend and Friend-Buchmyer understood the potential demand for a consignment shop for women’s “used, once-worn or never-worn” formal gowns and dresses.
“There are two things (women) will always need — prom dresses and wedding dresses,” Friend said.
Three years after venturing into uncharted resale territory, the sisters are hoping to expand to a second “destination shop” in surrounding counties to better serve those portions of their traveling customer base and expand their services.
Family business: Though she realized there was an “untapped market” for formal-wear consignment in York County, Friend said the store started out as a “hobby” and a distraction from her failed engagement.
Her “distraction” has since turned into a passion for helping people get ready for some of the biggest and happiest days of their lives.
“I would love to continue to do what we do — to offer people in the area an affordable alternative so that young girls and brides on a budget can still look their very best on a day that’s very important to them without feeling like they went for broke or over budget,” Friend said.
Friend and Friend-Buchmyer each have two daughters who can often be seen sitting behind the sales counter or modeling some of the newest fashion pieces that come in.
Though their daughters are not yet teenagers, Friend and Friend-Buchmyer said they dream of one day passing the business down to the young women in their family.
“I’m hoping it can be her first job,” Friend-Buchmyer said of her 11-year-old daughter.
Friend-Buchmyer, and the sisters’ father, Robert Friend, both expressed their pride in Friend for not letting the end of the engagement stop her in her tracks.
As for Friend, she said she always knew there was a reason for the breakup, even though she didn’t know exactly what that reason was.
“There would’ve never been a Twice Upscale Resale had I got married,” Angelica said. “Even though I was unhappy and (the end of the engagement) wasn’t what I wanted at the time, I just knew it meant that something else was meant for me.”