TEGA CAY — If big hearts and generosity are large endeavors, Elite Repeats is an oxymoron. It’s a tiny little shop tucked into the strip mall near Walmart, but size can be deceiving.
Brainchild of Libby Meadows of Waterstone and Linda Hoverman O’Neal of Tega Cay, the shop is drawing business to Fort Mill from all over.
Elite Repeats specializes in pageant wear, but also sells gently used dresses for prom. At prom season’s end, the dresses that remain are donated to a lot of different places, including a special program for proms for ill children.
“We donate clothes to girls in the hospital, battered women’s shelters in Charlotte and Rock Hill and The Sandbox in Charlotte. We hope it helps women to get back on their feet,” said Meadows.
Meadows had been in the corporate world for many years, wearing suits and realizing just how expensive dressing for success really was, and she wanted to find a way to help others.
“It was a step out in faith,” she said. “And I love it. This is our third prom season. The dresses start coming in January and are resold for a fraction of the original price. We donate the gowns – if sellers don’t want them back at the end of the season – from April to mid-May. One of our gowns was worn by the prom queen two years ago.”
Another facet of the business is being involved with The Sandbox in Charlotte. It’s a non-profit charity for children with life-threatening diseases. Each year, the charity, co-founded by Mara Campolungo and Brian Dulin, gathers manicurists, stylists, tuxedoes, DJs, food, hairstylists, and everything else needed to pull together a fall prom, said Betsy Gload, a volunteer with The Sandbox.
Elite Repeats provides many of the gowns, sometimes 50 or more. This is the third year the prom will be benefiting teenagers from the Levine Children’s Center, Campolungo said.
The Sandbox came about when its founders heard about a young girl with a brain tumor who had aged out of the prom experience and they decided to throw a prom. With help from the community, they raised $10,000 in 10 days to benefit 13 families who were in the same throes.
“The more we do, the more we want to do,” said Campolungo. “But the prom is my favorite event.”
Back at the shop, Meadows explained that Elite Repeat’s business ramps up in January, when girls start thinking about prom. On a recent Saturday, the store was buzzing with activity. Libby’s tiny frame was trapped in taffeta as she chose gowns for the girls.
“I know the gowns so well, that I often have a gown in mind when a girl walks in and I can see what might look good on her, so I try to get her to try it on. They often go home with my suggestions.”
Libby explained that upper line designer gowns retail for from $300 to $2,000. The shop only rents gowns for pageants at $100 to $150. She said the gowns are sold for prom, but they can be re-consigned to the shop after prom.
“We not only rent the gowns, we work with the girls and train them. We help build up self-confidence and poise for the pageant experience,” said Meadows.
She said she has worked with girls from Nation Ford, Fort Mill, Northwestern, Rock Hill and Lake Norman high schools. Since the business started in March 2011, a lot of the girls Hoverman and Meadows have worked with are seniors this year, which makes this year’s prom bittersweet.
“We had one girl, when I met her, she could barely speak to me. We’ve seen them grow in self-confidence and in their speaking abilities. It’s been great,” she said.