'Upscale resale' will B. Divine

Nonprofit empire expands from downtown to Hazel Dell with fancy used clothes for women

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Divine Consign

Every time the Divine empire has expanded, Linda Glover said, it's been a natural step to take.

Nobody knew it would be an empire in 1997, when a group of local nonprofit leaders launched the Holiday Shop, a seasonal gift store that would eventually funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to local community needs. But the same group was aware that there was no local place where you could donate or consign a decent used couch or bureau.

In 2005, Divine Consign opened on Main Street in lower downtown. It's a year-round furniture consignment store operated largely by volunteers — Glover is the executive director — that shares its revenues with local charities.

Next came Divine Friends, offering home and garden tours, and Divine Again, an upholstery shop that trains apprentices from Partners in Careers and Goodwill Industries. That's a natural outgrowth of Divine Consign and operates out of the basement there. There's even Divine Bites, a gourmet cupcake shop inside Divine Consign, encouraging you to munch while you browse.

"People will come a long way for a great cupcake," Glover quipped. "It all just naturally evolved."

Here's the next evolutionary step: Wednesday will see the opening of B. Divine Clothing Boutique at 1218 N.E. 88th St. in Hazel Dell. B. Divine will be an "upscale retail" store aimed mostly at women with a strong fashion sense as well as a strong sense of thrift.

Resale clothing is the fastest-growing sector of retail sales in the nation, Glover said. "People were always asking, why don't you guys do clothing?" she said.

As of Wednesday, they will.

Fast-growing

B. Divine's space totals nearly 5,000 square feet; the showroom is 3,500 feet and, when The Columbian visited a couple of weeks ago, it was still filling up with racks of clothing. Glover and store manager Therese Mills said they are anticipating a huge influx of donations, but they don't mean to overstuff the sales floor and overwhelm their customers.

Mills, who worked for two decades as a store manager, regional merchandiser and national buyer at Nordstrom, intends to be choosy about what makes it onto the floor. Items that don't fit the upscale flavor of the store will be "regifted" to another thrift, she said.

Volunteers will serve as the sales staff and fashion consultants for customers. That's a dream gig for some volunteers, Glover said, and it'll mean a highly motivated bunch.

"We really want women to have a shopping experience that's enjoyable and personal. When you walk into the store, we don't want it to say thrift store. We want it to say fresh, clean, current," said Glover.

Prices at B. Divine will be only a little higher than your typical thrift store fare — usually $10 to $45, said Mills. You may see the occasional designer item going for more. The store may also feature fine jewelry and the occasional item of furniture. It won't be a consignment store but strictly a thrift, Mills said: donations only.

Donations will be handled in person, during business hours only; there won't be an outdoor drop box, Mills said.

B. Divine doesn't mean to compete to other players on the local resale scene, Glover said; it won't offer much for men and won't get into children's resale at all "since there are other thrifts that are doing very well in that niche." It will specialize in upscale clothing for women.

B. Divine's home, a brand-new building at the corner of 88th Street and Northeast Highway 99, is the property of husband-and-wife team Ron Frederiksen and Terry Murphy, who have been both entrepreneurs and philanthropists in the area; Frederiksen's construction company, RSV, was the contractor on the remodeled Share Fromhold Service Center in central Vancouver; Murphy's company, Design Showroom, did the interior design work for Share.

The Divine empire's revenues — from furniture, upholstery, tours, Christmas gifts, cupcakes and now clothing — are managed by a nonprofit governing board called Gifts for Our Community.

In 2012, the group made grants of $2,500 each to eight local charities and nonprofits that work in human needs, education and the arts: Ace's Place, a community garden; the Clark County Food Bank for its nutrition education program; Columbia Dance for performance chairs; the Harney Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization for an early-intervention program; a resource library at Family Solutions; the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington for its "Project Access," bringing specialty care to people with no health insurance; an early learning initiative at the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools; and the specialized child care program at YWCA Clark County.

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://facebook.com/reporterhewitt;http://twitter.com/col_nonprofits;scott.hewitt@columbian.com.