Tucked behind a Jiffy Lube on Franklin Road in Roanoke you'll find one of the Valley's fashion meccas: The Golden Shoestring.
The high-end consignment store owned by Lee Robison takes designer brands many only dream of owning — Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and Chanel to name a few — and makes them accessible to every fashion-loving woman.
If you grew up in Roanoke, you may have visited the store with your mom or grandma — it has, after all, been around since the 1970s — but if you stop in today, you will not find the same shop.
When Lee, a former Macy's Buyer, took over in 2013, the store was old, tired and in desperate need of modernization. After much hard work, they are now computerized, actively involved in social media (find them on Facebook and Instagram), and have made eye-catching improvements inside and outside the store. Lee and her team of female employees have also hosted several events, including a fundraiser for rescue greyhounds, Elevate Your Image demonstrations, Royal Wedding festivities and an annual holiday open house.
Q & A with Lee
Laura: What's one thing people might not realize about what it takes to be a successful business owner?
Lee: The business environment — particularly with social media — is an ongoing challenge and keeping your business relevant and fresh requires constant visual change and awareness. Our staff reads lots of magazines, follows our fashion favs on Instagram, reads "Off Duty" in the WSJ, and we work with Christina Garnett, our marketing guru. Garland Gravely of Roanoke Fashionista is constantly getting us exposure on TV, in fashion shows and on covers of magazines. We also travel to locate great finds and designer items are shipped to us. We try to continually set the bar higher as far as what we consign.
Laura: What kind of experience can customers expect at Golden Shoestring?
Lee: We get to know our customers and consigners on a personal level. For some people, we provide retail therapy in a unique boutique environment, and we want the experience to be memorable, fun and something they always look forward to. Our staff loves fashion, recycling, and helping others save money on designer brands. Each of us are from families that shared clothes with siblings and friends, so we love going green.
Laura: What does a typical day in the store look like?
Lee: There is no real typical day, because we never know what items will come through the door. It can be a little hectic when three or four consignors show up with merchandise for us to evaluate. Some days we get brand-new items with $1,000 tickets on them. We love the stories behind the merchandise, which we pass onto our customers. We are busy bees helping our customers and consignors, posting Instagram and Facebook stories, freshening new arrivals, and moving items to our Last Chance area before donating locally.
Laura: Who inspires your own fashion style?
Lee: Chanel, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Eileen Fisher. I love designers who consistently create new, forward-thinking ideas, but stick to their true image and craftsmanship. They set the tone for the entire marketing industry, from fashion to home, to gardening.
Laura: What styles are you looking forward to this spring?
Lee: High waisted jeans, wide leg pants, high impact sleeves and beautiful printed mixing of patterns.
Laura: What's one fashion trend that makes you cringe?
Lee: Low rise tight jeans.
Laura: What's one thing most people don't know about you?
Lee: I love to garden. My grandmothers and my mother were amazing gardeners. I love digging in the dirt — I think I've moved almost every plant in my yard a couple of times. I'm a member of the Mill Mountain Garden Club, which oversees the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden next to the Discovery Shop on Mill Mountain. It's a crown jewel that can bring you joy, peace and a true love for our beautiful Roanoke Mountains.
Laura: How do you spend a day off?
Lee: To be honest, it is hard to get away from the store. Even if I'm not there, I may be doing bookkeeping or buying supplies or doing research on designers and brands. A full day off happens when I'm out of town, but even then I like to pop into little boutique stores.
Interested in consigning with the Golden Shoestring? They are now taking summer items on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They accept unstructured (non-business clothes) boutique items sizes 2-18. Learn more here.
Laura Richards is a family, newborn and maternity photographer serving Charlottesville and the Roanoke Valley. She specializes in authentic, feel-good photographer that tells "the story of you" for decades. Learn all about what makes her different from other photographers here.
Welcome to the blog! I'm Laura, and I specialize in authentic, natural-light photography and heirloom print art. I'm currently based in Roanoke, Virginia, but soon Charlottesville! Hope you'll explore my little online home and reach out if you have any questions!