By Jess Garofalo
Olivia King attempts to break the language barrier as she communicates with a Spanish speaking customer who is looking for “camisetas para hombres”. As a non Spanish speaker, this proves to be difficult for King, but through various body gestures, some guessing, and admittedly some help from a coworker, she is able to show the customer where Plato’s Closet houses their men’s t-shirts.
King is the store manager of the consignment store Plato’s Closet on the Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield. She’s had her position at this specific location for around eight months, previously working at the store in Enfield.
Her friendly relationship with customers is sure to get people to keep coming back. There are a number of people who simply come to shop, yet they know her name and stop by the front counter to have a conversation.
Sitting in the back room of the store filled with towers stacked seven-high of bins full of clothing, King recounts her past job experience. Prior to working at Plato’s, she worked for a family-owned entertainment center/bowling alley. She was in charge of making reservations and ensuring customer satisfaction. However, when she grew too large for that pond, she wanted a new challenge.
King switched over to her job in retail five years ago and has only been moving up. Of her years at Plato’s, three of them have been as manager. She said, “The responsibilities are different from an Assistant Manager or Supervisor since I need to oversee them along with all of my employees.”
Some of the traditional responsibilities that come with working in a consignment store are being on register, putting out clothes, cleaning the store, and buying new product. In addition to that, she has to make the schedule, deal with the district managers, and keep everyone in line.
These extra responsibilities are not to be taken lightly, yet she approaches them in a very casual way. Nobody who works there sees her as some intimidating boss. King has formed close relationships with all of her employees and sees them regularly outside of work. She’ll go out to eat, go to the gym, or even just hang out at her apartment with friends from work.
With the new store appearance on its way, maintaining the same level of service has been difficult for the employees, and King is not immune. “[The construction] has been a lot harder to get everything that I need to get done, done. I feel like I’ve been multitasking between helping them out and trying to run my store.”
The regular hustle-bustle of the store has been amplified with everything else that’s been going on. Cutting the store to half of its previous size has certainly impacted the functionality of Plato’s Closet. Opening late because the computers stop working is stressful enough without the sometimes bitter response from customers.
“I can’t blame people for being upset with the construction” King said with regards to difficult customers, “However, it is the customer’s choice on whether or not to shop during it.”
Her attitude towards shoppers has not changed, despite some of their alterations in attitude, and she continues to offer helpful advice and make everyone’s experience as pleasant as possible. When people have questions about the construction and the new stores moving in next door, she is always happy to answer them and explain specifically what is going on.
Many of the regulars who have come in through all of the stages of construction are very understanding, and King empathizes with them about the constantly moving around, dust-filled air, and tight aisles. The store certainly isn’t ideal for anyone at the moment, with registers set up on folding tables and some fitting rooms without door handles, but everyone is making it work.
Of course, working at Plato’s is not King’s dream job. Her goal is to take her long-developed skills in retail and put them towards selling property. She wants to be a real estate agent to take her passion for her current industry to the next level. While Plato’s Closet is going to miss her when she decides to leave, King will always come back to visit her employees and will strike up conversation with any familiar faces she sees in the store.