New Federal Hill Thrift Shop ‘Espirt de Couture’ Will Donate Profits to Veteran Organizations

| April 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Espirt de Couture, a new thrift shop that will benefit veteran organizations, is opening at 1126 S. Charles St. in Federal Hill. Espirt de Couture has taken over an approximately 700 sq. ft. space that was formerly Hello Addie Boutique.

Espirt de Couture was started by the wife and husband Amy Karpan and Tom Strazza. Karpan and Strazza moved to Federal Hill last June after many different stops in their military careers. Karpan did four and a half years of active duty for the United States Air Force and has been a lawyer for the Air Force for the last 14 years. Strazza is retired from the United States Army after a 22-year career. Strazza recently received his Bachelor’s degree in psychology and is now an outreach coordinator for South Baltimore veteran organization The Baltimore Station.

Karpan and Strazza met when they were both on tour in Qatar five years ago. When Karpan was relocated to Fort Meade, she moved to Maryland and Strazza joined a year later. They initially lived in the suburbs, but found themselves spending much of their free time in Baltimore and decided to make the move into the city.

Karpan said they have loved every moment of their experience since moving to Federal Hill.

When Karpan lived in England, she loved the ‘charity shops’ that sold nice consignment clothes, but also supported local charities. After initially launching an online business, Amy’s Closet, she decided to pivot and bring the charity shop model to Federal Hill. They were also inspired to do more for veterans after Strazza took the position at The Baltimore Station.

After starting to look at storefronts in the area, Karpan and Strazza found the rents to be reasonable enough to make the business model work and decided 1126 S. Charles St. was the right space to launch the business. Espirt de Couture means the spirit of service in French.

The duo has spent recent weeks setting up the shop and hope to open in May if restrictions on non-essential businesses in Maryland due to COVID-19 are lifted.

Espirt de Couture will accept all clothing donations and will sell select consignment clothes in the store. Clothes that do not make the cut will be sold to recyclers that buy clothes by the pound or donated to homeless shelters and charities.

Karpan said she is passionate about keeping clothes from ending up in landfills. She cited a stat from Green Story Inc. that if everyone bought one used item per year it is equivalent in CO2 emissions savings of a half a million cars taken off the road for a year.

Espirt de Couture will sell men’s and women’s clothing items. Most items will be $5, $10, $15, or $20, but some couture items will be $50. Karpan said they are interested in whatever will sell, but thinks the location will probably do well with younger fashion trends to fit the demographics of the neighborhood. She said there will be contemporary fashion, business wear, shoes, and costumes.

With just 700 sq. ft. for the retail space, Karpan said they will very likely rent a storage space in the area to keep donations and items. They have been using their home to sort items for the launch of the store.

Espirt de Couture will take the profits and donate to veteran organizations. It is a non-profit and has a three-person board that includes Karpan along with an active duty female Master Sargent in the military and a 30-year retired government worker, who will make financial decisions regarding the business. “I wanted the board to represent service,” said Karpan.

Karpan, who is the executive director, will not take a salary as she launches the business and will eventually look for volunteers to help run the store and sort donations.

Karpan said she’s not only excited about opening a business with a great mission, but also sees a need for a good thrift store in Federal Hill. She says every neighborhood deserves a good thrift store and could see new locations in Baltimore if the business is successful.

Karpan loves fashion and jokes that she only works to have the money to buy clothes and to have a home to keep those clothes. She loves a good bargain and has always loved thrift stores. She got her wedding dress from Brides Across America, which donates wedding dresses to veterans, and will donate the dress to another cause in the near future.

As Karpan still works full-time for the Air Force, the store will initially be open around her day job hours. Those hours will be Monday to Thursday from 6pm to 9pm, Saturdays from 10am to 8pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm.

Amy Karpan and Tom Strazza (photo courtesy of Amy Karpan and Tom Strazza)

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