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Consignment store specializes in gear for kids, helping those in need

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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As a mother of six children ranging in age from 27 to 10 years old, Denise Cardona has long known the value of shopping at discount and consignment stores. “I’ve always bought consignment,” she said this week. “I’ve raised my kids on consignment stores and thrift stores and was always interested in recycling merchandise.” Six years ago she put that expertise to use, opening Kids Closet on Palm Avenue in Auburn. With only 700 square feet, lack of space was an issue from the start, she said. So last November, Cardona moved the business to Lincoln Way in Downtown, more than doubling the square footage. With 1,600 consignors, the store carries clothing from zero to junior sizes, large and small baby equipment, books, toys, videos, and — a recent addition — maternity clothes. Cardona and associate Michelle Sardella work to keep the selection as broad as possible. “We put out 200 to 400 items new the floor daily,” Cardona said. That includes seasonal items that may be off the shelves in retail stores. “So customers can find snowsuits now, when you can’t find them anywhere else,” she said. This spring she is giving the Robalos — the Auburn Recreation District youth swim team — the opportunity to bring in last year’s swimsuit to exchange or consign. “The swimsuits are about $60 new and with the economy, people just can’t do that,” she said. There are also colonial costume items for student dress-up days at the Bernhard Museum. Sardella worked at the store briefly when it first opened, and is now back. “I love merchandising so it is a natural for me,” she said. “It’s fun to work with kids’ clothes. It’s cheery.” The shop has benefited from the new location as well as the recession. “We’re finding more and more people are coming in every day,” she said. “People are definitely wanting to consign more and if they had never thought about buying gently used items, they are now.” Judi Billey of Weimar visited the store Monday, browsing for her grandchildren. “We were walking by and just stopped in,” Billey said. “It’s fun stuff. Very nice. Lots of nice things.” Another aspect of Cardona’s business philosophy is giving back. “We send all of our things that we don’t sell to seven orphanages that we sponsor around the world,” she said. That means shipping items to New Guinea, Uganda, Russia, Mexico and Romania. The store also donates locally, including providing books and clothing to area schools. In addition, Cardona partners with Linda Lareau, owner of Courthouse Coffee, to raise funds for special projects. “We’ve done diapers for Papua, New Guinea,” she said. “We’ve done art supplies for street kids in South Africa.” A knitting group that meets weekly at Courthouse Coffee made the reusable diapers, Lareau said. The idea for the art supplies started with a visit Cardona’s son made to South Africa. “He was doing a documentary and met a man on the street who was helping kids by showing them how to make art from garbage,” she explained. “So we had a fundraiser to buy art supplies for these kids.” For Lareau, it is a cause that she has embraced for a long time. “My degree is in childcare administration,” she said. “I’ve worked in east San Jose for 15 years. I understand how important art and expression are for children, especially those who’ve had challenges in their lives and are somewhat at risk. … I just think art is a very soothing, comforting way for children, especially those with needs.” Cardona and Lareau are coordinating another event, featuring children’s musical group Colossal Dome, to be held in April at Courthouse Coffee to raise more funds for art supplies to go to South Africa. The date hasn’t been set yet, Cardona said. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com. ---------- Kids Closet 948 Lincoln Way Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Phone: (530) 888-1809