Host: Betty LaMarr

Betty LaMarr in the Daily News

Bettys opens in new site, gets back to retro basics

By LANCE ALLAN

The Daily News

Retro clothing is all about bringing back the past what was in style 25 years ago suddenly finds its way back to the forefront.

The same goes for Betty Lamarr, a name closely tied to Memphis retro clothing scene.

Lamarr, who for several years ran Bettys Resale vintage clothing store on Madison Avenue, has reinvented herself.

Missing from Memphis retail for several months, Lamarr is back with a new endeavor, Bettys Showroom Fashions. The shop is located at 1835 Union Ave. in a space formerly used by the now-defunct Towery Publishing Co.

I went home and rested for a while, she said of the closing of her former Midtown shop. I have some loyal people, old customers who encouraged me to come back. I decided to go back to the basics, strictly back to the retro business, 70s style.

Open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Bettys Showroom Fashions also opens for customers by appointment.

Like the clothing she sells, Lamarrs varied retail ventures have come full circle over the years.

The names have changed Bettys Resale, Bettys Amsterdam, Bettys Showroom Fashions but one thing has remained the same, Lamarr said: her devotion to her customers.

Everyone is welcome in our store, she said. How can you as a store turn down money?

Lamarr opened Bettys Resale in 1993 in a 2,000-square-foot space in Southaven, Miss. After one year of success below the state line, she moved to Memphis and opened a shop at 2027 Madison.

(The Southaven location) did so well, after the lease ran up we decided to move to Memphis, Lamarr said. Ive never been much of a small thinker.

Or a stickler for convention.

After six successful years of selling retro clothing at Bettys, an overseas trip changed the direction of her store.

I started traveling and stumbled upon Amsterdam, she said. The resale business was wonderful.

When she returned to Memphis, she added a twist to her stores selection of retro and vintage clothing Bettys Resale became Bettys Amsterdam.

I thought it would be nice to have a fashion house where you can have coffee and read a book. Have models in the window, she said about a store that suddenly became a bit too racy for some in town. But this is Memphis.

A move to 806 S. Cooper St. didnt make things any better, and Lamarr eventually closed shop. But, after an uneventful period at home, Lamarr found that she missed the retail world.

So, shes back in the retro business, but her new shop marks a stark difference from her early days in clothing resale.

I was selling clothing out of my car, she said. (The idea to open a retro clothing store) came from a friend of mine. He said I was so good at it.

The store has only been open two months, but Lamarr is in no hurry to get things going. Shes the sole employee in the 2,000-square-foot store.

Ive been taking my time with it, she said. I never got rid of the inventory. Ive had it in storage. Everything has to be priced again and sized again.

Her sales projections arent as high as they once were.

Im going to project and Ill throw a small amount out I want to get started at $5,000 a month, she said about sales she hopes to generate from not only the store but a catering service, as well. It was $5,000 a week in a slow week before. I hope it will do very well.

Lamarr said theres a strong local market for retro items. And she prides herself on running a store in which businesswomen can purchase quality clothing for a fraction of the usual cost.

I have a lot of businesswomen who come in for designer suits I may have for $10, she said. If they have $30, they say I can go to Bettys and I can dress myself.