Local entrepreneurs turn closet raiding into dress shop concept
By Claire Harlin
Solana Beach resident Lisa Harrison often attends parties and philanthropic events, and, like many women, she believes you must look your best and you can’t wear the same dress twice.
“It’s fun to have great dresses, but it’s not fun to spend $500 or $1,000 on a dress for a one-time event,” said Harrison, a mother and philanthropist who has 30-plus years of retail and wholesale experience.
So after going through some friends’ clothing collections and borrowing dresses to prepare for three formal events in a row, Harrison landed a handful of amazing dresses, and she even wore two at one event — taking photos and dining in a long, silk charmeuse gown and then changing halfway through into a shorter ensemble for dancing.
When she told her friend, Mindey Morrison, about her successful closet shopping adventures, a light bulb went off in Morrison’s head and the two teamed up to start the Del Mar Dress Company, a shop that opens only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and allows women to rent, buy, sell, and trade their dresses. The ladies said the response has been huge — and incredibly positive — since the shop opened its doors on Sept. 22 at 324 S. Cedros.
For Morrison, the new business venture is quite a shift from her day job. She’s gone from being a financial advisor at Del Mar’s Efficient Market Advisors during the week to being a fashion advisor on the weekends, counseling shoppers on fit, style and color.
“I’ve never had someone walk in and say, ‘What a great idea,’ in the financial world, but that’s what people say when they walk in here,” said Morrison. “We’ve had amazing feedback, and a lot of people have been bringing us their dresses.”
The shop has seen a lot of traffic in recent weeks from women outfitting for the Marine Corps Ball, and the ladies said they expect to provide many options come prom season. They are even partnering with other local shops to sell off-season items for a fraction of the retail cost.
Morrison and Harrison are dedicated animal activists and support a number of charities, so they also wanted to incorporate that into their business. When women come in to donate a dress, they may choose to send a check to the charity of their choice in lieu of receiving cash. Otherwise, sellers get 30 percent of the dress’s resale price in cash or 50 percent in store credit.
The women are also partnering with charities by offering to give a percentage of sales to non-profits when people buy a dress for that organization’s event. For example, for every dress bought to wear at the Junior League’s Jingle Bash Bachelor Ball, Del Mar Dress Company will give 20 percent of that sale back to the Junior League.
The shop is also partnering with its neighbor, Carruth Cellars, to offer a “happy dress hour” on Fridays, in which shoppers can enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine. The weekly event begins at 3:30 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. — or as Morrison says, “’til the wine runs out.”
Often dress shops only carry formal attire, but Morrison and Harrison want Del Mar Dress Company to be a go-to spot for a variety of occasions. While there are a number of designer gowns fit for a ball, there are also more casual dresses to wear to dinner or a party. And not all the merchandise is used — about half of the shop’s items are new and current.
The Del Mar Dress Company is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit www.delmardresscompany.com.