Friday, May 20th, 2022

Shopper Client Stories


Former Chesapeake teacher enjoys a new life as a business owner

by Rob Lauer

Aida Stephenson, owner of Style Encore

Aida Stephenson, owner of Style Encore

A teacher in Chesapeake Public Schools for 26 years, Aida Stephenson had no idea that a second career as the owner of one of the region's most unique women's clothing stores was just around the corner. To her family, however, this dramatic change in direction seemed perfectly suited for this warm, energetic woman. In fact, it was Aida's daughter, Natalie, who first suggested that she consider this new career path.

"Natalie worked at Plato's Closet-the leading national retail resale store for teens-and loved it," Aida explains. "The franchise is founded on the concept of sustainable clothing-something I knew very little about at the time. But Natalie loved the idea and said, ‘You know, Mom and Dad, you should consider doing something like this.' My first thought was, What? Us own a business?
While Aida reacted to the idea of business ownership with surprise, her husband, Daryll, responded with interest.

"Daryll began looking into it," Aida continues. "He researched Winmark-the corporation behind Plato's Closet-and learned about franchising opportunities with Style Encore, their resale store for women. We decided to fly out to Winmark's headquarters in Minneapolis and visit a Style Encore store there because there were none in this area. We were really impressed with what we saw-especially the concept of sustainable clothing. Daryll said, ‘This isn't a bad idea. Would you want to do it?' I said yes; it would be fun to do something new. After teaching for 26 years, I surprised myself by not hesitating. Opening this store felt like a calling."

The couple bought the Chesapeake franchise of Style Encore, choosing a spacious storefront on Sam's Circle off of Battlefield Boulevard as its location. "Since my daughter initiated this idea, she and I work together at the store," Aida says, adding with a laugh, "My husband kept his day job."
A commitment to sustainable clothing is what makes a visit to Style Encore such a unique (and money-saving) shopping experience.

"A lot of clothes that people buy go unworn and are eventually discarded," Aida points out. "The number-two thing in landfills is discarded clothing. Sustainable clothing helps the environment by keeping clothes from literally going to waste. We buy gently-worn clothing. About 10 percent of these clothes have never been worn. They just sat in someone's closet and had the original price tag on them when they were brought to us."

"Style Encore is not a consignment shop," Aida is quick to add. "When people bring in clothing, we really take our time examining each piece. We can spend a half-hour looking through one bundle. The condition of a piece is a big factor in whether or not we'll buy it. There must be no pilings or stains and not much wear and tear. Just as importantly, we consider the style of each piece. Is it still trendy? Is it still in demand? If we decide to buy a piece, we offer cash on the spot. We don't barter over price. Winmark has set the prices based on brand, trend, condition, and demand. Because of these high standards, most of the clothes we carry are two years old or less. We buy clothes for all seasons, in all sizes from zero to 6X. We also carry clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. Because our clothes are bought locally, they reflect the styles and tastes of the community."

"After teaching for 20 years,
I surprised myself by not hesitating. Opening this store felt like a calling."
            -Aida Stephenson

When Aida opened the doors of Style Encore on May 28, she was greeted by long lines of people with clothing to sell.  “Because we opened a few months into the pandemic, people had been cooped up in their homes, some unable to work,” Aida recalls. “They had clothes in their closets that they were going to give to charity, but because of the pandemic, they needed the money. For weeks, all we did was buy. In the end, we built up a great inventory while helping people financially. At our grand opening on August 13, people coming into the store were really surprised by what they saw. We carry all of the name brands for up to 70 to 90 percent off the retail price.”
In opening a large retail business during a pandemic, Aida didn’t know what to expect. “On the day of our grand opening, about 80 to 100 people were lined up outside,” she remembers. “But we counted people as they came in, observed social distancing, and sanitized our dressing rooms each time they were used.”

“Because of COVID, we also use social media to connect with people and let them know what we offer,” Aida continues. “We do what we call ‘Live Sales’ online on Instagram and Facebook every weekday, show about 50 items each time. It’s a great experience because we see and interact with all of the customers who log on. Not only can they ask questions about each piece of clothing we show, but they can tell us what they’re looking for, and if we have it in the store, we can show it to them right then online. We give each item a number and hold it for them if they like it. Customers who aren’t local can also log on, and if they want something, they can pay for it via PayPal, and we will ship it to them.” At a time when more people are shopping online from home, Style Encore’s ‘Live Sale’ could be the wave of the future. They have also become a way for Aida to serve and develop friendships with customers as far away as Florida and California. One customer in Maryland was so impressed with Style Encore that she swung by the store on a trip through Virginia to meet Aida in person.

All of this has made a big impression on this teacher-turned-entrepreneur. “If we thrive here in Chesapeake, I wouldn’t mind opening another Style Encore in Virginia Beach,” she says enthusiastically. “But we’ve only been open for four months, so one thing at a time. For now, I invite everyone to give us a try. Whether they’re buying clothes or selling to us, I think they’ll be impressed by what we offer here at Style Encore.”

Style Encore

1437 Sam's Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23320