A blond dynamo, Joy Sabo is always on the go during selling weekends at her pop-up shop, Southern Belle’s Closet. She rearranges dresses, gives the thumbs-up to a prospective prom-goer’s gown, runs the cash register or straightens the unicorn tapestry at the selfie station. Her mom, Janice Sabo, plays dress whisperer, patiently offering advice to the women and girls who’ve descended on this for-lease commercial space, temporarily transformed into a boutique.
Southern Belle’s Closet is a month-long, weekend-only pop-up shop with prom and pageant gowns, bridal gowns, bridesmaids’ dresses, cocktail dresses and more on consignment. (There’s even a selection of 1980s-wear for theme parties.) This year the shop is at 146 N. Forest Park Blvd., between Earth Fare and Elder’s Ace Hardware in Bearden. The shop is open Feb. 8-10, Feb. 15-18 (there’s a special Monday open) and Feb. 22-23. (Hours vary.)
There are more than 2,000 dresses from size 0 to 28, a large number of them new with tags. A seamstress is available for hire to perform alterations. There’s a large dressing area, with individual tents, and a giant inflatable unicorn in the middle of the room to bring smiles to shoppers and remind them to look at themselves in a positive light.
Joy Sabo grew up in retail: Her parents owned the popular Cobweb Corner Hallmark store for more than 30 years before her father passed away unexpectedly. Joy began Southern Belle’s Closet when she moved back to Knoxville from Denver in 2012 to be close to her mom. Joy was recently divorced and realized that while her friends with kids had lots of places to consign their used tiny togs, there was no place for her to ditch her wedding dress.
Since then, she’s staged her shop in several commercial spaces and has been in Bearden the past three years. She starts scouting for a large, empty commercial spot in the fall. Word of mouth about the shop has spread far beyond the metro area, with some people driving three to four hours to visit.
She begins taking consignments in January and has specified walk-in days during the first couple of weeks of the sale. Although she has assembled most of the inventory for this year, there are two more open drop-in dates for those who want to consign gowns, Feb. 12 and 13, from 4-7 p.m. Pickup for unsold gowns is Feb. 24.
As for her original wedding dress, she guesses it has sold at least three times over.
“It kept coming back through the door,” she says, laughing.