January 2012: Our Town - Kathy's Closet: Bluffton's newest consignment shop offers chance to help a good cause
Author: Peter Zink
Abacoa is never far from Kathy Deringer’s mind. The colorful neighborhood in Jupiter, Florida with its cozy colonial cottages in bright pastels and clean colors stands in stark contrast to the familiar Spanish adobe and stucco style homes so prevalent in South Florida. Whenever she felt like getting away from the hustle and bustle of her life in Palm Beach Gardens, a pregnant Deringer would take a drive up to this idyllic neighborhood and share the moment with her future son. “I would just drive through there and see these beautiful homes, and it just seemed like such a family-friendly neighborhood. I would cry as we were driving, and I would just tell my unborn son, ‘Blake, someday you and I are going to have a house just like that,’” she said.
In December, Deringer’s dreams of a quaint colorful cottage to share with her son became a reality when she opened Kathy’s Closet, a brand new consignment store in Bluffton, featuring chic designs and classy fashion. Drawing from her years of experience working retail on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, Deringer hopes her new store gives women the confidence they need to look great and put themselves together. When she worked at Mondi on Worth Avenue, she gained an appreciative eye for what looks best on her customers. “Back then I had a customer list, and I’d get to know their tastes. I would call them when certain pieces came in I felt would look good on them…I want to do the same with Kathy’s Closet,” Deringer said.
Located on Palmetto Way, next to the Bluffton Library, Kathy’s Closet features fashion that’s not too trendy and possesses an elegant and classic flair. “Think of the Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn look rather than the Pamela Anderson look,” Deringer exclaimed with a chuckle. The elegance of her quaint store is noticed in even the smallest of details, from the well-organized mix of designer labels on the racks to the custom-stamped hangtags on each piece of clothing resembling women from the Jazz Age.
But for Deringer, her consignment store means far more than showcasing great clothing and sharing fashion advice. Kathy’s Closet is a culmination of years of struggle and hard work and a way for her to help others in the community. No stranger to struggle or adversity, Deringer became familiar with the horrors of domestic abuse at an early age. “I grew up almost daily witnessing my father beating my mother. My brothers and I would have to hide because he was abusive to us, too,” Deringer said.
Her father left the family when Deringer was 12, but the pain he inflicted on her mother had left its mark. Her mother became abusive like her father and struggled with alcoholism. When Deringer was 16, her mother committed suicide. It was at that point that she knew she had to get away. She moved to the Palm Beach area and worked as a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader and retailer for several years. In her 20s, she finally started getting the help she needed and began reconciling the events of her past. “You can either choose to become better or stay bitter. For years I was bitter and angry, but I chose not to be like that anymore,” Deringer said.
It was determination and a willingness to change her circumstances that allowed Deringer to escape her mother’s fate. At age 27, she married a minister who became physically abusive. She recalls, “He was 6’ 7”. One day he threw me over a stairwell into the front door, and then went to preach on a Sunday morning about God’s love…at three in the morning, I loaded everything I could fit in my car and drove 18 hours back to South Florida. At that point, you don’t care about your stuff; you just want your life back.”
Today, after moving to Bluffton a little over five years ago, she has her life firmly back in her hands. With the help of the community and business organizations like the Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), she’s feeling good about the future. But she never intends to forget about the past, and she hopes to make Kathy’s Closet a place where women can feel comfortable coming to talk and share their stories. Portions of Kathy’s Closet’s profits will be donated each year to Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (C.O.D.A.), a local nonprofit that provides shelter and counseling to victims of domestic abuse. She also hopes to host a spring fashion show where women can model lines of clothing available in the store while raising money for C.O.D.A.. With a good cause and great clothing lines, it’s easy to see how Deringer has finally found her own Abacoa here in Bluffton.
To learn more about Kathy’s Closet, visit the store at 16A Palmetto Way or visit kathyscloset.biz for more information.