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Eclectic business has bounty of unique clothing goods

Everything that’s old is new again. That’s the motto behind the Claremont Village’s latest concept, DeeLux, which has taken over the vacancy left behind by odds-and-ends boutique Raku. The DeeLux concept is equally eclectic.

One person’s hand-me-downs become another person’s bounty at this family-run business that thrives on buying, selling and exchanging clothes, shoes, handbags and other goods. The buying has already begun at the Yale Avenue shop as Dave Brown and his wife Dee, along with their daughters Justine and Chelsea, fill their shelves in preparation for opening day on Sunday, September 1. The store is already a treasure trove of glittering jewelry, heels and suit jackets for the “young and young-at-heart.”

“It’s a fun mix,” said daughter Justine. “Not everyone is into used clothes or vintage clothes, so we have something for everyone.”

In creating DeeLux, so-named for the matriarch of the family, the Browns have pooled their own mixed fashion interests and talents. Justine helps her mother with the buying, Dave focuses on men’s apparel and business, while Chelsea leads the marketing. The resulting combination has proven successful, and enough to allow them to now exand their business.

This is the second location for the Browns’ vintage thrift mom-and-pop, but the first in Los Angeles County. The original DeeLux boutique resides in Costa Mesa near Orange Coast College. Mr. Brown admits the college community and artsy atmosphere were a draw.

“It’s a very eclectic community, and that’s how we have always approached what we buy,” Mr. Brown explained.

For the family of music lovers, being next door to the Folk Music Center was also a perk. In fact, they found the location for their new store while on a recent visit to the music emporium.

These Riverside natives are no novices when it comes to business. The entrepreneurial spirit has thrived in the Brown family, Chelsea notes, with her grandparents owning a hardware store and her aunt running a flower shop. Her parents’ interests have always lain in fashion; more accurately, in second-hand shopping.

It was love at first thrift for Dave and Dee, high school sweethearts with a shared interest for thrift shopping and all things retro. After marriage and settling down, it was only natural to put their years of thrifting experience to good use. In 1986 they did just that, opening a store called Cool Jerk, equipped with lots of vintage clothing and a 1965 Seeburg jukebox, which now has a home at DeeLux.

As the times and fashions have changed, so has the Browns’ business. Cool Jerk closed in 1990 and re-emerged the following year as The Denim Bank, a headquarters for buying and selling Levi’s for the export market. Ten years later they switched up their concept again, opening DeeLux in Costa Mesa and adapting the buy/sell/trade formula that continues today.

While still relishing their retro ways, their business is no longer limited to vintage wear. Shelves are stocked full of men’s and women’s clothing of both modern and vintage flair. Claremont shoppers are already flooding the stock room with their items, which the Browns typically buy for 35 percent the retail value. Claremonter Desiree Cervantes added to their inventory on Thursday afternoon as she spent her lunch break swapping a pair of purple pumps for a little extra spending money.

“It’s easier than selling them on eBay and having to deal with all the shipping,” she said. “Plus, I work here in Claremont so it’s convenient.”

She plans on making a return visit with more shoes in hand. The Browns hope others will follow suit. Brand name or not, they take a little of everything, from Dooney & Bourke to Billabong and Forever 21. Goods are recycled for cash or 50 percent store credit, a little extra incentive to take a chance on their funky fashions.

“Everyone should have something out of the ordinary or unusual in their wardrobe,” Mr. Brown said. “We like to have a few surprises on the racks.”

DeeLux is located at 224 Yale Ave. across from Rhino Records in the Claremont Village. For more information, visit www.mydeelux.com or call 399-0721.  

—Beth Hartnett


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