When her husband's job required a move to Statesboro from Lawrenceville in North Georgia, Maria Proctor knew she wanted to continue working.
Instead of remaining in the funeral services business, as she had done for the last several years, Proctor decided to try something different and open her own retail clothing store this past April - Madame Couture's Consignment Boutique.
"I have always been thrifty, and have shopped at consignment boutiques, as well as Goodwill, and other thrift stores," Proctor said. "I really feel as a woman, if you are a savvy shopper, you can look very nice and stay within your budget."
Proctor said when she moved here, she didn't find the type of merchandise that she was used to buying in the thrift stores where she shopped in the Atlanta area.
"I decided that I would open one, and began looking for the right place," she said. "When this space became available across from the Bulloch County Courthouse on North Main Street, I said this is it, and took the plunge."
Proctor did not enter into her new venture without planning and research.
"I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Stores in St. Louis this year," she said. "I learned a tremendous amount, and am a proud sponsor of HowToConsign.com, a website dedicated to education the public about consignment shopping and consigning."
LaWanda Simmons was drawn to Madame Couture's when she noticed the mannequins that Proctor had dressed and placed in front of the store.
"When I saw those clothes, I really liked the style, and I just had to come in and see what was here," she said. "She has so many lovely things, and what I have bought today can be used for fun or work clothes. This is an excellent bargain."
Proctor said a lot of women come in as shoppers, and become consignors.
"Most people really aren't familiar with how consignment works," she said. "Consignment means Madame Couture's will display and professionally market your items for sale to our very growing customer base. Your items that sell on consignment will earn you half of the sales price, and you don't have to do anything but bring in your best items in ready to sell condition. We even offer the option of buying your clothing outright for resale, but I recommend consignment, because ultimately, you will end up with more money for your clothing."
NeNe Pope met Proctor when she was preparing to open her business, and became one of Proctor's first consignors.
"You can't help but like Maria," Pope said. "She has a wonderful personality, is easy to work with, and is very professional. She loves to help other people, and is a genuinely warm and kind hearted person. She is also very community oriented, and tries to help others as much as she possibly can."
According to Proctor, Madame Couture's donates its unsold items to Bulloch Family Services, Safe Haven Women's Shelter, and the Boy's and Girl's Club. Thrift stores supported by her business are Worn Threads and Retails Humane Society.
"We try and be aggressive in selling the items that we have, and for those that don't and are not picked up by the consignors, we try to give them to a place of need," she said. "Madame Couture's shoppers are savvy shoppers who only want the very best in brand names and very current styles. If an item was bought new in the last two years, it is probably something that we can find a buyer for."
In addition to selling clothing, Proctor said she is a retail therapist and personal stylist.
"I want to show women how to go from 'closet chaos' to 'closet confidence'", she said. "I give classes on dressing for body type and body style, and on different ways to tie a scarf. Every woman can look good, by augmenting what they have, adding something to an outfit, or learning to dress in clothing that enhances your style and shape. To do it on a budget is the key."