First in a series of articles on interesting places to shop and eat in Rock Hill.
The Recycled Closet – Classic with a Twist
The first thing you notice when you walk in The Recycled Closet is the décor: vintage suitcases artfully stacked, colorful scarves tied to the handles; vintage bird cages perched atop old books; locally crafted pottery displayed on wall shelves.
The second thing you notice is that the clothing’s arranged by color: pale pink to fuchsia to orange to red on one rack, butter to lemon yellow to lime to emerald green on another, pale blue to turquoise to navy on another.
The small shop, located in Catawba Corners Shopping Center, 2210 India Hook Road, sells an eclectic mix of clothing, house wares, and vintage items. The high-end clothing ranges from classic to quirky.
“My assumption is that you already have the basics,” proprietor Lori Benson said. “You come here to build on your basic wardrobe, add color and personality.”
Benson grew up in Japan, the daughter of a U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant. She met and married Keith Benson while he was serving in Japan and they were both taking night classes at the University of Maryland, Asian Division. She earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management, and planned to one day operate a bed and breakfast.
But marriage and four children put that plan on hold. When her children were little, Benson began buying and selling clothing on eBay as a way to make money. “I was seeing all this awesome stuff in thrift shops that people were getting rid of. There’s so much waste!” Benson said. “You’d be amazed at the awesome clothes I find that still have the tags on them!”
The Recycled Closet is not a consignment shop, though many items are used. Benson personally does the buying for the shop, open every day except Sundays and Wednesdays. Benson travels extensively through North and South Carolina and Georgia to find the unique items she stocks.
When Benson opened The Recycled Closet in December 2013, she sold only clothing.
“But I started decorating, bought a few furniture pieces,” Benson said. “I added a few old luggage pieces, some vintage items. And people who came in to look at clothes began asking if the other things were for sale, too.”
So she thought, “Why not?”
Now, in addition to clothing, the shop offers hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, old typewriters and cameras, vintage hats and purses, pottery, lamps, even furniture. Benson also has a fondness for sock monkeys, which can be found peeking out from unexpected places throughout the store.
“In Japan, people don’t really shop in department stores,” Benson said. “Everything is boutiques, one-of-a-kind items. That’s what I’m trying to offer here.”
The store has a homey feel. There’s a comfy arm chair beside Benson’s desk, where customers sit and visit with Benson, or tired spouses can put up their feet. Recently, a woman came in to look at clothes, and while her husband was sitting in the arm chair, he spotted the vintage typewriters. He ended up buying one, and used it to write Benson a poem that now sits framed on her desk.
Another customer bought an old rocking chair, painted it bright red, and made it the center piece of her preschool classroom’s “reading corner.” She came back after school started to tell Benson how much the children and other teachers love it.
The brands Benson offers are high-end: J Crew, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market.
“I’ve gotten so I can tell who made something by feeling the fabric or looking at the cut,” Benson said. “I don’t even have to look at the tag.”
Benson’s goal is for customers to be able to come in and find something that defines their unique style and personality, whether it’s clothing or a decorative piece for the home.
That philosophy is reflected in her store’s motto: Life is too short to wear boring clothes.
“I sell designer clothes without the designer price tag,” Benson said. “I think people should be able to dress stylishly without paying a fortune for it.”