South Rowan High School brings “true-life shopping experience” to students in need

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 4, 2019

By Andie Foley

If you’ve ever stepped into a Hollister clothing store, you’re familiar with the experience.

The music is loud, the scent of cologne thick and the interior design industrial, modern and dimly lit by the coppery glow of low-hanging Edison bulbs.

Such was the setting that a collection of South Rowan High School students and community members found themselves within this Saturday. But this was no late-summer, collective trip to a mall. Rather, the gathered masses found themselves within the redesigned walls of a high school classroom, now called “The Wearhouse.”

The remodel, explained South Rowan career and technical education teacher Kresen Whitmarsh, was a dream-turned-reality for the school’s leadership team. The group had envisioned a way in which to serve the needs of students in need with a clothing closet — students who either had wardrobe malfunctions during the day or who were experiencing socioeconomic distress.

“For those students, we wanted to provide a different experience than just taking them to an abandoned classroom and having them sort through trash bags of donated items,” said Whitmarsh.

And so, working with her interior design and fashion merchandising students, as well as students from the school’s carpentry class, Whitmarsh led students on a semester-long journey to turning this mall-level, “true-life shopping experience” into a reality.

Careful planning went into each aspect of the design, said Whitmarsh, from the modern displays and racks to the faux repurposed wood floors. The Wearhouse is even complete with a chic seating area and a trendy dressing room accented with rugs, throw pillows and more.

Working behind registers and to stock the store are a mixture of South Rowan High School interns, each having applied for their positions.

The interns were out in force during a grand-opening for the Wearhouse held Saturday.

“This has been a great experience for someone like me who hopes to own their own business one day,” said sophomore Maleya Richardson. Together with fellow sophomores Elizabeth Morgan and Mallory Larrimore, she worked as a greeter during the weekend festivities.

Seniors Lexie Hughes, Yesenia Gomez and Stephanie Lemus said, in stocking the store, they had taken careful effort to select in-season clothing items of high quality and name brands.

“We don’t want people who come in here to worry about being judged for having something others might see as ‘lower class,'” said Hughes.

Items are available for sale at $5 or less for the general student population — and perhaps eventually the community at large — said Whitmarsh, with students in need being provided discreet vouchers to hand in at the register.

And students planning, designing and implementing the school-based store were dreaming up visions to prevent any social stigmas associated with the Wearhouse shopping experience.

“We’re still working on it, but eventually we’re going to have loyalty cards for everyone that shops here,” said Hughes. “That way, people who need this service will be able to come in, swipe a card and get a zero balance without anyone in the store knowing the difference.”