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Little Closets fills big shoes in LIC

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Little Closets, Long Island City’s new consignment store, focuses on small garments, but it is defined by the community’s big heart.

The store opened Sept. 14 at 46-46 Vernon Blvd., the space formerly occupied by the neighborhood gallery Art-O-Mat. The shop accepts children’s clothing between sizes 0 and 10 as well as strollers and baby furniture. It also boasts a wall of merchandise created by local artists and artisans like miniature cartoon portraits and baby stocking caps and booties.

“I really liked Art-O-Mat and it was really important for me to keep the space community-oriented because of what they did,” said owner Letia Frandina.

Frandina, 29, moved to the neighborhood one year ago with her husband and infant son. After getting acquainted with some of the local parent groups and dealing with her own son rapidly outgrowing his clothes and shoes, she struck on the idea of opening the store.

“I sent out an e-mail to one of the parent forums and said, ‘What do you think about doing something like this?’” she said. “And I just received so much support and enthusiasm that it just kind of propelled it forward.”

Along with taking consignments, Little Closets also hosts weekly storytimes in multiple languages and French music lessons for toddlers — all free and run by volunteers who sought Frandina out.

“She has a friend who’s an opera singer and at the end of each class, she does a little opera,” Frandina said of the music teacher. “It’s incredible.”

Taking the aesthetic of reuse to heart, Frandina and her husband, Michael, appointed the interior of the store with finds from the Web site craigslist.com and from second-hand stores in the borough. One thing they learned quickly after opening the shop was that people in the Hunters Point section of the neighborhood did not have many easily accessible children’s retail options.

“A lot of people don’t have vehicles and the closest Babies ‘R’ Us is on Northern Boulevard, so they come and look for a crib sheet that someone has consigned,” she said, noting that her customers are stylish, but not too stylish to ignore a well-priced Old Navy onesie.

But the store will also be a test of Frandina’s nerve. It opened after a short eight-week period from idea to execution, and two weeks later, her husband had been laid off from his job.

“The urgency of being able to sustain it, for me, is definitely the hardest part,” she said. “But the community support has been great.”

The best part of the job is a no-brainer for Frandina: interacting with the children.

“I was writing my dissertation on the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site and I’m just about finished, and that’s a very heavy topic,” she said. “It’s just a very positive environment and I like to meet people.”

To contact Little Closets, call 718-707-0470 or visit littleclosets.wordpress.com.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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