After 27 years of renting space at the now-shuttered Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park, and then leasing 2107 and 2109 Central Ave., Wendy Barrett finally has a place to call her own.
Barrett, the proprietor of Wendy’s Closet, a thrift shop, recently purchased 3001 Central Ave., formerly occupied by Brown’s Trophies. She hasn’t moved in yet but plans to as soon as she can find someone to take over the lease at her current location. In the meantime, she has renamed the business Wendy’s Closet on Central and transitioned it to more of a trendy, vintage clothing store.
Speaking to the Catalyst, Barrett said the location and identity change has been a big hit with the younger shoppers who tend to frequent the Grand Central District.
“It’s vintage with a little bit of new fashion,” she said. “My clientele is now 25 and under pretty much.”
High-waisted jeans, sports jerseys and vintage rock band T-shirts are some of the biggest sellers, Barrett said, but even though much has changed, she still gets the patronage of long-time customers who remember her from her days at the Wagon Wheel, which closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said she thought the flea market might be back in business at some point, but that didn’t happen.
“The Wagon Wheel shut down in March 2020,” Barrett said. “In July, they let us know it would not reopen.”
Barrett is now able to operate Wendy’s Closet five days a week as opposed to two when her shop was at the Wagon Wheel. She hasn’t yet had to hire any additional help but said business — both buying and selling clothes — has been brisk. “New stuff comes in all day long,” she said.
Jenna Malowany, the KW Commercial real estate agent who helped Barrett acquire her new location, praised the Wendy’s Closet proprietor’s ability to adapt and thrive amid difficult business conditions.
“Little did she know in 2020 a global pandemic would grow her closet into not one but two locations on Central Avenue, giving her so much walkable foot traffic that she quadrupled her monthly income,” Malowany wrote in a Facebook post. “Wendy didn’t let Covid drag her business down. She kept climbing that hill and her wildest dreams came true. Wendy had always wanted a location on Central Avenue that she owned.”
Much like the retro clothes that are experiencing a resurgence of popularity, Barrett is relishing Wendy’s Closet’s newfound status as part of the fabric of the eclectic Grand Central District.
“It’s a destination now,” she said of her shop, “as opposed to just being one part of a big, huge place.”