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Ground Floor: Cedar Rapids couple finds retail resale to be good fit

Style Encore buys, sells women's apparel

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By Deborah Neyens, correspondent

CEDAR RAPIDS — Some couples have his and hers towels or his and hers coffee mugs. Gabe and Natalie Loesch have his and her resale stores.

Three years ago, the couple purchased a Play It Again Sports franchise in Cedar Rapids. The store specializes in buying and selling used sporting equipment.

In January, the Loesches opened a second store, Style Encore, which buys and sells gently-used women’s apparel and accessories.

“Clothes are much more of a passion of mine than sports,” Natalie Loesch said. “We each have our own baby now.”

The stores are part of the Winmark Corp. family of brands. Winmark, with headquarters in Minneapolis, is one of the top resale franchisers in the country with five different brands.

Gabe Loesch learned about Style Encore, Winmark’s newest brand, about a year ago when he was completing some corporate training. He brought the idea of opening a second store home to his wife, who was intrigued.

“The whole concept appealed to me,” she said, noting that she had grown up shopping at Plato’s Closet, a third Winmark brand that is targeted to teens and young adults. “The Cedar Rapids area needed something more catered toward women.”

Loesch said she attended a “discovery day” at the Winmark headquarters in April to get more familiar with the Style Encore concept and signed a lease for a retail space in June.

The Loesches selected the Fountains development in northeast Cedar Rapids as the location of their new store.

“We love that area of town,” Natalie Loesch said. “There are a lot of women in the 25-55 age bracket.”

After the Loesches completed a build-out of the space, Style Encore opened in November to buy used women’s apparel and accessories. Loesch was pleasantly surprised by the response.

“I knew the idea would be a big hit, but did not expect to get this much inventory,” she said.

The store pays cash on the spot for women’s clothing and accessories like handbags, shoes and jewelry.

“We prefer brand names — everything from Merona from Target to Louis Vuitton,” Loesch said. “We are looking for gently used items that have been in stores in the last couple of years.”

After spending several weeks building inventory, the store opened for business on Jan. 21, selling items at 50 to 75 percent off regular retail price. The store employs 11.

Loesch said one of her goals for the new business is to keep inventory levels high.

“We have a very good mix of inventory and keep getting piles and piles of new stuff every single day,” she said. “I would like to keep buying amazing things.”

At a Glance

Owner: Natalie and Gabe Loesch

Business: Style Encore

Address: 5300 Fountains Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids

Phone: (319) 294-7209

Website: www.style-encorecedarrapids.com

  • Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com.

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