Symphony Volunteers’ fashion resale aids orchestra

The Encore Shop — “Where Good Clothes Take Their Second Bow’’ — will highlight designer and high-end fashions for spring with “Step Into Spring,’’ a festive sale at the shop, 7814 Maple St., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

There is no charge to browse, and all proceeds benefit the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Symphony Volunteers, 350 members strong, who along with a small paid staff operate the shop, promise a wide array of top names in the fashion world, including St. John and Escada, and possibly Prada, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.

Kathleen Davenport, Symphony Volunteers board chairman for the shop, said she is delighted to work on the project because she “loves to shop, and I love the people here.’’

She also commented that preparing for the spring sale meant “the last hurrah for winter clothes,’’ and that to prepare they faced “a lot of clearing out to do.’’

There will be dresses, suits, accessories, separates, ball gowns and cocktail dresses. Some are brand new, with original price tags, and the rest are very lightly worn. Shoppers also will find costume jewelry. Ten days ago there was even a gorgeous, glamorous full-length ranch mink coat.

There always are well-priced finds in every category, Davenport said, and for the special promotion there will be a personal shopper on hand to help coordinate ensembles and find specific items the purchaser is looking for.

Light refreshments will be served Saturday, and there will be a door prize for one lucky shopper.

The shop opened in August 1966 and was the brainchild of Viola Claverie, who was inspired during a transatlantic voyage by a shipmate’s story of a similar venture in Philadelphia.

At first the orchestra’s board rejected the idea, but soon changed its collective mind. Last year the shop donated $60,000 to the orchestra, and it is expected to match that amount this year.

The operation has three paid staff members, but depends on the labor of numerous volunteers to help sort, tag and price the donations and consignments. Sue Wiseman has been the shop’s manager for 18 years. Set up as any other retail establishment, yet presenting more choices in a small space, the shop provides three dressing rooms.

Barbara Sands, the board vice president for fundraising, said their mantra is “shop/donate/consign’’ so that fashionable and thrifty women can continue to find beautiful, quality clothing, and the project can continue to help support the orchestra.

Most of the shop’s customers are locals, but a number are women from out of town, often here for a convention. “They hadn’t realized they would need very dressy or even formal wear,’’ Sue Wiseman said, “so come here to find something wonderful without breaking the budget. We don’t always know how, maybe through their hotel’s concierge, but they find us.’’

“Not long ago we were surprised to receive a donation of several pairs of size 10 shoes,’’ Sands said. “That’s not a common size, but they were all upscale designer names, and customers snapped them up.’’

Rosemarie Coffman is Wiseman’s assistant; she works two days a week, opening and closing the shop and handling the daily business. She pointed out that the building is a typical small New Orleans shotgun, with four rooms.

Besides the Encore Shop, the group aids the orchestra through the annual book fair, Art on Oak; musical programs other than LPO concerts; lunch with orchestra members; and an annual holiday party. The 14-member board is headed by president Nancy Pomiechowski.

Visit volunteer@
symphonyvolunteers.org.