When Suzanne Delica was a little girl, she would use her mother's old socks to make clothes for her Barbie dolls by cutting sweetheart necklines and cinching them close around the dolls' waists with ribbon.
"I had Barbies, but not all the clothes to go with them," Delica said. "I've always been into creating something."
Delica's latest creation is the opening of the state's first Clothes Mentor in Columbia. An upscale women's fashion resale store, the 2,300-square-foot space off Dobbins Road quickly filled with designer brands and high-quality fashions for women sizes zero to 26 when the store opened for buying a few weeks ago, Delica said.
Based in Minnesota, Clothes Mentor has more than 150 stores in 42 states. The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
"This past week, the entire floor was covered," Delica said, on Aug. 5, standing in her pristine store where all the clothes are now organized by size, style and color. While the store will celebrate its grand opening and its first sales on Aug. 10, the weeks prior saw Delica and her staff of eight welcoming customers bringing their unwanted clothing to sell.
"We ask that everything is gently used," Delica said. "We take time to inspect everything. We don't do any washing or dry cleaning. They need to be sellable."
Delica pays cash for all the items the store accepts. For those items not accepted, Delica or her staff will explain why the items were declined and then offer to donate them to charity.
Success in Style, Green Drop and Vietnam Vets of America are the three charities Delica has selected to support.
"Customers are bringing in a lot of great stuff," said shop employee Dionna Moore. "Columbia definitely has fashion insiders."
Moore is anxious to shop at the store, but like the public, Moore cannot purchase any item until the store officially opens on Aug. 10. She and other staff members, Delica included, each have a pile of items in the back.
"Customers come in every day to check us out," Delica said, who quickly tells them that items will be available on Aug. 10. "If we started selling now, we would never fill our aisles. Generally, people get it."
The steady foot traffic just confirms to Delia that she selected the correct spot to open. Originally from Florida, Delica came to Columbia on a job rotation as an engineer that sent her up and down the East Coast. After six years, Delica, 29, realized she needed a creative outlet and returned to Maryland last year for its business opportunities and personal reasons.
"Howard County is one of the most affluent counties in Maryland," Delica said. "There are a lot of women in the targeted-age demographics looking to save while still getting the quality pieces."
At the grand opening, the first 50 customers will receive gift cards. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the day will feature raffles, food, music provided by WZFT 104.3 FM and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:05 a.m.
"We have a really fun day planned," Delica said. "We will be buying and selling the entire day and moving forward."
Delica is open to the possibility of opening more Clothes Mentor stores in the future.
"In three years, we will see where we are," Delica said. "I would love to build my empire."
For now, she is excited about the grand opening and seeing her hard work come to fruit, from the selection of women's clothes to the store's new bathroom.
"I'm proud of the bathrooms," Delica said. "I did the wallpaper in them."
Clothes Mentor will celebrate its grand opening on Aug. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 8865 Stanford Blvd., Suite 125, Columbia.