Loft spot

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's 2008. If a store doesn't have a website, it hardly qualifies as a store.

Laura Gross took the opposite tactic, selling on eBay before opening a physical store. And she's been pleased - or overwhelmed, depending on the day - with the results.

Both Laura's Loft in Pickerington and MyBargains2U on eBay offer overstock clothing, accessories and bedding. The concept combines Gross' bargain-shopping instincts with an interest in making a little cash and keeping busy while the kids are in school.

"That's how this whole thing got started, so I thought, well, I've been very successful at that, why not open a store and see how that does as well?" Gross said. "Since I'm a bargain hunter, why not help other people out?"

She opened the Pickerington storefront in April and operates Friday through Sunday. The shortened hours keep operating costs down and make Laura's Loft a destination for weekend deals.

The large space has a warehouse feel, with racks arranged across the floor, several shoe displays dividing the center and curtains set up to convert two stalls into dressing rooms.

There's clothing for everyone from babies to men, women and plus-size, most with a dressy-casual style. They're from catalogs and upscale department stores, Gross said, but shoppers have to make a visit to find out the labels on these closeout items.

Shoppers don't have to scrounge through bins in their attempts to save money, though. Some Ohio State sweatshirts and a selection of makeup and jewelry are the only items on tables, with the rest of the clothing divided by size and style among various racks.

In one corner, bins and tables hold comforters, pillows and other home decor.

"I've got a lot of things coming in for fall," Gross said. "I've got handbags coming in, and I've got boots coming in - I do them all for $25, but they retail anywhere from $25 to probably $150. I can't wait to put them out."

As merchandise is picked through over a season, shoes and clothing styles sometimes get whittled down to just one size. But shoppers can expect even deeper discounts when clearance kicks in.

Since opening, Gross has been running every-other-month "Girls' Night Out" events on Thursdays, with special pricing and food and wine tastings. This December, she'll host a "Guys' Night Out" for last-minute shoppers, including on-the-spot gift wrapping.

"People get to come in, they get to eat, they get to shop, they get to win raffles, they get to mingle and have fun," Gross said. "They've gone over really, really well."