Ashley Gillit, 29, was destined to pursue a career in retail. Gillit, owner of Ashley’s Attic at 829 N. Tejon St., recalls spending weekends while growing up shopping at secondhand stores with her mother. She went on to study retail in college and, in 2013, opened her own secondhand women’s clothing store just south of the Colorado College campus. The Doherty High School graduate discusses with the Business Journal what it’s like to be a small business owner, a mother and curator of the funk.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Colorado Springs?
I’ve lived here since I was 2. My folks moved here [from West Virginia] when I was a toddler and I lived in Colorado Springs through high school. I went to college and then moved to Grand Junction for a little bit. I met my husband, got married and moved back [to Colorado Springs].
Did you go to school for retail?
I graduated from CSU in Fort Collins with a [bachelor of science degree] in apparel and merchandising. After that I had an internship in the Vail area at the [Lodge and Spa at Cordillera], which is a golf and country club. My degree entailed a lot of business classes, math classes. … We focused on the retail aspects of profit and loss, profit margins, growth margins, but all incorporated into retail.
What about retail interested you?
Growing up, it’s what my mom and I did together on the weekends. We’d go to secondhand stores and never shopped at full-price retail shops. [We shopped at] places like Eve’s Revolution or at shops downtown. I really enjoyed that bonding period with her. Then I went to school and got the internship [with Cordillera] and was an assistant buyer. I would pick out [brands] … and golf apparel. I’ve always been into fashion and attribute that to my mother’s influence.
Talk about the process of opening your store.
It was a process! We’re very much a family-oriented store. My mom [Cherie Gorby] and I opened this together in the summer of 2013. I run it because she has a full-time job. I was also working a full-time job at the time while opening the store.
On opening day, I realized I was pregnant. A lot was happening! I was working six days a week for nine months. After my son was born, I did not return to [my full-time job] so I could focus on my store and my son.
How would you describe your merchandise?
Fun to funky to functional and classic. I only take quality and offer it at a good price. I don’t like to elevate prices too high. It is secondhand. I like to get a good deal and so does everybody else. I like to take funky stuff. Being downtown, people like to be different and unique.
It’s so hard to define. You just know it when you see it. I’ve had jackets with elephant appliqué all over them. They sold very fast.
Do you do consignment?
I switched gears from the early days when I was just consignment. I mainly buy items now. We’re pretty basic and like it that way. We don’t use a fancy computer system or register. When you come into my store you get a paper receipt hand-written by me, you get a recycled bag from Target or Terra Verde or Eve’s Revolution — some other place in town. I do like to put my spin on it. I wrap your purchase in turquoise tissue paper so you feel like you’re walking out of my store with a present. By keeping it simple, I started getting a lot of consigners. Too many. So I decided to scale back slowly. Besides, dropping off your things and getting cash right away appeals to the younger crowd. They just want some cash in hand to get a coffee.
Are the majority of your customers from the college?
No. They’re actually pretty diverse. I get working women and stay-at-home moms, retired people and students. It’s a large audience that I’m catering to, which is good because then I can take all types of clothing.
Do you have a five-year plan?
[Laughs.] Stay open. Our biggest plan was to stay conservative. That’s the reason for not having a computer or cash register and using pen and paper. … The other part of the plan is developing relationships, which I think I’ve done so far.
Is Colorado Springs good for small business?
Now that I am a small business owner, I understand how important it is to support small businesses. It keeps the money in Colorado. The more people who support small business, the more it will grow Colorado Springs and its uniqueness. I love Colorado Springs. I love my mountains and Pikes Peak. I always know which direction I’m going. This is home to me.
What do you do in your free time?
I’ve been married to my husband Rick for five years. We had our first child, Mason, who is a year and half old. My folks live here in town … and family is really important to us. We visit my husband’s family in Denver or spend quality time with my family here. … We like our Netflix.