Elite Repeat, St. Paul consignment boutique, closing after almost 50 years

13 July 2023

When Sharon Skarda heard the news, she texted her daughter.

“Elite Repeat is closing,” she wrote. “Where am I going to get my clothes?”

It’s a fashion emergency for people all around the Twin Cities who have shopped and sold at this consignment boutique that has been in business on the corner of Randolph and Hamline avenues in St. Paul since 1975.

But it’s not only about losing the chance at getting good deals or making some cash for well-made clothes, accessories, jewelry and shoes.

“It’s so much more than a consignment store,” Skarda said. “It’s a community.”

‘Happy Birthday to Me’

On a recent weekday afternoon, several shoppers were browsing the racks at the boutique and others waited in line to check out.

Why close a business that appears to be bustling, during a time when thrift is trendy and inflation is an issue?

In this case, it’s personal.

Missy Auran, the current owner of Elite Repeat and a longtime employee before that, bought the business in 2014 — she’s overseen it through the hard days of the pandemic as well as two road construction seasons.

And then, on June 22, she turned 56.

While she still loves a designer deal, she’s ready to move on after working at 1336 Randolph Ave. since 1996 — 27 years, or almost half her life.

She explained her decision in an open letter to her customers that was titled, “Happy Birthday to Me.”

“Reflecting on the past twenty seven years with immeasurable gratitude and pride,” she wrote, “I am also humbled to know that I cannot do this forever. I know that I want to be more present in my own life and in the lives of my family and friends and I know that I want to ‘Live Through the Craziness’ without the distraction and responsibility of owning a store. I know that I want to use my time and talents in new and creative ways.

“I once heard that one of the bravest things you can do is to ‘live a life that’s different from what others expect of you’ and today, on my 56th birthday, I am making the very brave decision to close Elite Repeat. I am giving myself the gift of time, the present of presence, permission to exhale. Happy Birthday To Me.”

Last week, though, it was still business as usual for Auran as she worked in the store, stopping often to chat with the regulars about her big announcement.

“Now you can go do something fun!” a customer said.

“It has been fun!” she said later. “I just want to do something different.”

A destination for fashion

Elite Repeat, a consignment boutique that opened in 1975, is for sale. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

It was on Dec. 3, 1975, the era of mood rings and bell bottoms, when a news brief about a “next-to-new” shop was published in the Highland Villager.

“Elite Repeat, a next-to-new clothing store for women’s and men’s apparel, has opened its doors for business,” the newspaper announced. “Clothing is already being accepted for consignment resale. The shop will also feature holiday, cruise and ski wear.”

Despite the mention of cruises and skiing, many shoppers were hunting for deals during this era, a time of inflation as well as a recession when the shop was initially operated by Carol Travers and Kayleen Feldman.

Feldman was familiar with clothes, fashion and fit.

“Her father, a Russian immigrant, was a tailor,” said her son, Jeff Feldman.

Her husband, a car sales manager, helped out on his days off, and her daughter later pitched in; it was a family affair.

By 1988, in the era of big hair and shoulder pads, Kayleen was ready to sell and Shelley Spargur was ready to buy.

“I had consigned there for quite a few years,” Spargur said. “I’ve been thrifting since I was 8 years old, when my dad took me to a garage sale.”

At that sale, she bought two grocery store bags of old hats for $2; after fixing them up, she resold them to an antique shop for $10.

“To a second-grader, an $8 profit is big cash,” she said, laughing. “I’ve loved the thrill of the hunt ever since.”

By the 1980s, Spargur was in her 20s, with a degree in fashion merchandising and work experience as a buyer at a rising discount retailer called Target. But then …

“A friend called and said, ‘Shelley, Kayleen wants to sell her store and you need to buy it,’” Spargur recalls. “The next morning, I was there when the store opened at 10. I went in and said, ‘I want to buy your store.’”

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That’s what she did, eventually expanding the shopping space to more than 3,500 square feet and eliminating men’s and children’s clothing in order to specialize in the more lucrative women’s fashion. She even started going to New York on buying trips for jewelry and accessories.

This is not Goodwill. Think better labels, newer items that are in excellent condition. The goal has always been to satisfy both customers wanting good deals and sellers wanting good prices.

Before the Internet, before sites like eBay and Poshmark, you couldn’t so easily find this type of merchandise.

“People came from Rochester and Duluth and North Oaks and Apple Valley to come to Elite Repeat,” Spargur said. “It was a destination.”


Missy Auran, owner of Elite Repeat since 2014, has worked there for 27 years. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Auran got her start in fashion while working at the Dayton’s at Ridgedale Mall. Later, she found that working in third-party medical reimbursement was not as much fun.

“I applied for part-time work at Elite Repeat after seeing an ad in the Pioneer Press,” she said.

She got the job.

It’s not just a job, though, not even when it’s hard work.

“I would say what I’ve brought to Elite Repeat is a sense of community,” she said.

It does feel like a bygone shopping experience. This is the kind of place where other customers will give you warm feedback on the clothing when you look at your reflection in the three-way mirror. The store’s signage offers pep talks, signs like, “Love the lady in the mirror.” The prices are supportive, too, like $7 for a quilted Land’s End coat for fall or spring, original tags still on it (in the clearance section) or $98 for a Coach tote bag.

During her tenure, Missy has also kept the class going.

“The best compliment someone gave me as the owner was that Elite Repeat is like the Dayton’s of consignment,” Auran said.

It could be the setting of a Hallmark movie, too: People have gotten engaged here; someone married the UPS guy. A woman got outfitted for the Grammys here (for less than $100). People who hate to shop come here and people who love to shop come here and both groups, employees say, leave happy.

Generations of family members have shopped here, including Lauren Crepeau of Mendota Heights (a current consigner and former employee) and her 14-year-old daughter, Ava, who browsed the latest arrivals together last week.

It was a full-circle moment.

“I started shopping at Elite Repeat with my mother when I was in high school,” said Lauren. “And my daughter is starting high school this fall.”

The mom and daughter both like the Lululemon finds here; they also appreciate the atmosphere.

“For regulars, it’s like Norm walking into ‘Cheers,’” said Charice Deegan, an employee, referring to the 1980s sitcom (“… Where everybody knows your name …”).

Deegan, who began working at the shop after retiring from a long career, says she will miss the empowerment and support she feels here.

“Elite Repeat has been such an important place to so many people,” she said. “It would be nice if it could continue.”

Perhaps it will: Auran is open to selling the business — “I want it to stay in the community,” she said — and she has been in discussions with a number of potential buyers. Or perhaps …

“If I don’t sell it,” Auran said, “I will do something else with it.”

Could this mean occasional pop-up sales, or continuing with the live sales on Facebook that have become so popular since the pandemic? She’s not sure yet.

For now, shoppers should mark their calendars:

“We’re going to have a big clearance sale,” Auran said.

Elite Repeat closing sale

What: Elite Repeat, a consignment boutique that sells women’s clothing, is closing.

Where: 1336 Randolph Ave., St. Paul (at Hamline Avenue).

When: Starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 19; ending date to be determined.

Info and updates: Facebook.com/eliterepeatstpaul

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