Stock Up on Clothing Made From Natural Fabrics at Ropa Etcetera

Posted Jul 10th, 2019 in Retail Roundup

When the Riverside Partnership of Wilmington bought The Old Wilmington City Market in 1990 and re-opened it, Arlene Minchew was a FedEx manager in New York City contemplating retirement. She and her husband had a condo in Wilmington and loved to visit so, a year later, they decided to retire here.

Once settled, Arlene and her daughter wandered into The Old City Market in Downtown Wilmington during a shopping trip. At that time, vendors sold goods from table tops that rented for $8 a day. On a whim and without any plan, they decided to rent a table on weekends. They had no idea what they would sell but Arlene recalled seeing some fabulous handbags and jewelry during a trip to Mexico so she went back and bought them to sell.

Arlene created a nice display on her table and on the first day of business, she sold out! She replenished her stock from Mexico and sold out again but repeat trips to Mexico didn’t make good business sense. She also wanted to sell good quality clothing. After making some calls and visiting distributors, Atlanta Mart agreed to be her supplier.

Arlene stocked up and sold her products from a table. This was awkward for her customers who had to try on clothing behind a folding screen. When one of the stores in the market became vacant, she jumped at the chance. The business grew rapidly and soon she had to double the store size. Ultimately, she moved to her current location on the Front Street side of The City Market.

Arlene had no background in fashion or textile but she had an eye for quality and sought out natural fabrics that would be popular in Wilmington because of the high humidity and hot summers. She met with new manufacturers and established lasting relationships with brands like Habitat, Cut Loose, inoah and Flax, an all-female co-op from Lithuania. Arlene also realized early on that her customers wanted exclusivity so she buys classic styles and only stocks one of each size for each style.

Many of Arlene’s customers are retired and travel widely. Inspired by this and her own travels, Arlene sourced unique jewelry from Europe. She sells beautiful jewelry made with shells from Paris, rubber from Germany and glass from Italy—all are conversation starters.

Arlene loves how sociable her customers are and encourages conversation by providing “guy chairs” for husbands and friends. So, whether you’re looking for one-of-a-kind jewelry or clothing made from cool, natural fabrics, you can expect a communal atmosphere at Ropa Etcetera.


Hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sun, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


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