For actress, comedian, author, and designer Rhonda Shear, it was not that she was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug following success in the entertainment industry: it was more about a desire to steer her own course. “What I always wanted to do is control my own destiny, and that’s entrepreneurship, being in control and working for yourself. Even when you are working for studios or being a stand-up comic, you’re still your own product. But I always thought there were other opportunities.”
Rhonda went into business with her husband over 20 years ago, and though some couples might find it challenging to work together, she says that their two different skill sets complement each other beautifully and have led to a great partnership. “Like any couple, we have our moments, when he says ‘okay, it’s 3 in the morning, can we please shut off the phone for the night, but that’s how it is with creative people,” she says. “My entertainment background and his entrepreneurship experience of over 25 years starting several businesses made for a good combination when we merged the two. He brought the business and financial part, and I brought the creative side.” Together for over 20 years, the two first met when they were kids and became childhood sweethearts. “I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be in business with the first boy I ever kissed,” Rhonda says with a laugh.
In 2003, their business partnership developed a successful intimate apparel line. After its launch in Los Angeles, the New Orleans native and her husband relocated to the St. Petersburg area to be closer to one of their largest customers at the time, Home Shopping Network. The move yielded another benefit. “We moved here for the business but then truly fell in love with the community. It has everything we wanted –that big city and small city feel.”
That affection for the area has led Rhonda to explore avenues for getting more involved supporting local non-profits and community programs. The couple resides in St. Petersburg along with their happy crew of rescue pups and enjoy cooking together, boating and supporting local restaurants and shops whenever possible.
Matt Wortham and Ashley Hamilton, (RE)treat store managers
Ashley Hamilton has 18 years of retail experience with her eight previous years spent in resale and consignment, making her an expert on fashion brands, trends, vintage items, and unique finds. Using the latest authentication tools, she can provide customers peace of mind as she helps them create a wardrobe that reflects their personal style.
Matt Worsham has carved out his niche in finding one-of-a-kind furniture, antiques, home décor and art, integrating his many years of experience managing a consignment shop. He loves to share the history of pieces and encourage customers to visualize the items in their homes using an eye for interior design and detailed research of furniture styles across a variety of eras to find the right fit for the home.
The Story Behind (RE)treat: It All Started with a Handbag
The inspiration behind Rhonda Shear’s launch of an upscale consignment boutique in downtown St. Pete began years ago, when an innocent shopping recommendation led the entrepreneur inside her first consignment store. Her mission – the perfect handbag – and since that day, she has grown intense affection for both: fashionable bags and out-of-this-world consignment stores.
“I’m a shopper, and when you love fashion and design, you have to love shopping. And I love, love, love handbags,” Rhonda says.
She was not always obsessed with fashionable pocketbooks. She recalls her mom buying her a special graduation gift – a Louis Vuitton ® handbag, which she had always treasured. “Those were lifetime bags, or at least you thought of them in that way,” she says.
It was years later after becoming a successful entrepreneur that she discovered some prominent high-fashion handbags that she thought looked as beautiful as any artwork she had seen in a museum. She found herself seeking out new handbags but quickly realized it could be very costly to buy them brand new. When a friend introduced her to consignment stores that specialized in high-end brands and timely fashion pieces, she uncovered a new passion. “I thought what a great thing. Somebody else loved it and took good care of it, and now I’m going to love it even more,” Rhonda says. “It’s sustainable, it’s circular. I started buying a few name brand handbags, then selling a few myself.”
It did not take long for this new upscale consignment store patron to contemplate dipping her own foot into an exciting new pool. (Oh, and did we mention her love of fashionable footwear? She would often find these treasures at the consignment stores, too.)
“People who love consignment like me really get into it, and it becomes destination shopping for them as in ‘I need to see if there’s something new this week’ or to check if they have a certain item I’m trying to find,” she says.
Joining the Grand Central District
Rhonda Shear’s idea to launch her own high-end consignment boutique was hatched. Now all she needed was a qualified and talented team to run its daily operations, which she found after meeting up with Matt Wortham and Ashley Hamilton, two veteran consignment professionals with solid store management experience who could help Rhonda and Van launch their new store. The question then became: where to set up shop? One area of busy downtown St. Pete sprang to mind.
“We love the Grand Central District, and through the years, we’ve been watching the area just pop. It reminds me a lot of Melrose in LA,” says Rhonda. The couple frequently visited the Grand Central District – to dine, shop and support their friends in the local business community. A building came up for sale, and they knew it was time to act. “We thought it would be so much fun to own a little something on Central and become part of this community we had already come to enjoy,” she says.
The boutique had its soft launch in February 2021 and will be hosting a special grand opening event Saturday, June 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. featuring live music, food, drinks, and prizes. For more information, click here for the Facebook event link.
Step Inside (RE)treat:
When visitors stop by (RE)treat St. Pete, they will discover a consignment store quite different from other shops they have browsed before. Beyond the doors of (RE)treat St. Pete, visitors will find an upscale boutique curated with luxury and a fun, comfortable shopping experience.
“I wanted to create a store that had everything — accessories, home goods, high-end handbags, shoes and other fashion items — a store where I would want to shop,” Rhonda says. She and her team set out to create an experience for shoppers, where they could step inside and find designers they know and love, furniture and accessories in top-notch condition, garments that look new and smell like new, a store with a certain aspirational quality to it. At (RE)treat, store managers Matt and Ashley work with customers to eliminate the hassle that can come from that never-ending search for the perfect item and help them put it all together. Half of the store is filled with home furnishings and furniture across various eras including mid-century, modern, traditional, and antique. There are fun gift ideas including plants, figurines, and quirky antiques.
And of course, there is plenty of fashion to be found. From Valentino and Chanel to Gucci and other younger brands, the boutique offers something for all tastes and generations. “Maybe these are designers that they’ve wanted but couldn’t get their hands on them, and now they can purchase them at a better price and in terrific condition and enhance their wardrobe, too,” she says.
Rhonda admits that she and her husband are not just owners of the boutique — they shop there, too! Her husband enjoys browsing the latest finds in the growing men’s fashion section of the store, and Rhonda found herself recently captivated by the newest addition in jewelry — a unique collection of one-of-a-kind Native American antique jewelry pieces. (She acknowledges she has already snagged a few of these pieces and has her eye on another.)
As for the store name, she says the name came about because it offered so many different meanings. She sees the boutique as a relaxing experience for shoppers and an opportunity to treat (or re-treat) themselves with a gently owned item that they can love, too. “It’s also a chance to be at home in your own skin and treat yourself to lovely items,” Rhonda says. “So that’s what we’ve created – it’s like a little jewel box, pristine but still affordable. You can walk in and get a cute T-shirt, but you can also find a high-end handbag or a beautiful piece of furniture to add to your home.”
In addition to the downtown St. Pete store, (RE)treat has hundreds of additional items available online and at their local warehouse location. The boutique is located at 1940 Central Avenue across from Imagine Museum and caddy corner to a St. Pete historical business icon, Haslam’s bookstore.
Partnering with the Community & Area Nonprofits
As part of the downtown St. Petersburg business community, (RE)treat will join the parent company Shear Enterprises, LLC in its commitment to continuing to hold an active role to support its neighbors and the local nonprofits who provide valuable services and resources to those in need.
“There are a lot of hard-working people here. This is their life, this is their business, where their kids are growing up, so we want to keep supporting the local community,” Rhonda says.
Rhonda has always been involved with the community and (RE)treat will be just another way to give back! The parent company, Shear Enterprises, LLC and Rhonda’s intimate apparel brand sold on www.rhondashear.com and in boutiques around the world) has been actively involved in supporting non-profits since their move to the Tampa Bay area. The entire team is a proud supporter of Ready for Life in Pinellas County, a non-profit that offers support, resources and guidance to area youth in the foster care system or those transitioning from foster care into adulthood. The store also has been involved in backing events and programs for Pace for Girls Pinellas, an organization that since 1997 has offered positive opportunities to 1,500 at-risk girls facing struggles with school, abuse, unhealthy relationships and other serious situations.
“The people here are nice, and we’ve built long-lasting friendships. St. Pete is a great place to run a national business and a local business, too,” Rhonda says. “We’re going to keep encouraging others to shop local and give back to organizations that do meaningful work and change lives.”
Stay tuned for big events and weekly promotions at (RE)treat
(RE)treat offers visitors special promotional opportunities throughout the week designed to focus on key areas of the store’s unique items. Some of these weekly promotions include:
— Topless Tuesdays, which gives shoppers 10% of all fashion tops.
— Senior Sale Wednesdays, which offers 10% off for all shoppers over 55 years of age.
— Décor Day Thursdays, which rewards those looking to spruce up their home or completely reinvent a room 10% off all home décor items.
(RE)treat St. Pete also plans to host fashion showcases and Sip and Shop events in the future, and the store is available for private parties and events, including bridal showers and bachelorette shopping events.
Check out another shop local profile here at Nature’s Food Patch. Story written by Chris Kuhn for Destination Tampa Bay. Photos supplied by (RE)treat for editorial purposes all rights reserved.
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