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Thrifty shoppers snag fashion finds at Watertown Urban Mission benefit boutique

Fashionistas in the Watertown area got a treat recently: a stylish – and affordable – one-day clothing boutique at the Black River Valley Club, to benefit the Watertown Urban Mission. 

The chatter of shoppers against a backdrop of Christmas music fills the ballroom at the Black River Valley Club in downtown Watertown.

The city isn't usually a fashion haven. You're more likely to see military uniforms or heavy-duty Carhartts on the streets than the latest trends from New York City. But today's event is for the Watertown fashionista. The thrifty trendsetter. And there are plenty of them here. The space hums with activity as women check the racks, searching for that beautiful bargain.

Jennifer King is one of them.

"I found two shirts and a pair of shorts, all for a dollar each, and a nice summer dress that apparently has never been worn," she said.

Nancy Storino is a well-known realtor. And a local women's realtors' association she's a part of is one of the sponsors of the boutique.

"I thought, oh, I can't pass up a bargain and I'm a shoe diva, as you can see, so I came down, and they're brand new shoes! For $10 a pair! How can you go wrong?" Storino said.

Hartley Bonisteel is really excited about some of the vintage apparel for sale. She holds up her favorite find of the day – a gauzy, ethereal dress.

"It's pink, and it's, like, a chiffon, and it's long-sleeved with big drapes and a high waist. And it's very '40s, '50s, I think...so, it's kind of back in style and I just hope it fits," she said.

The clothes for the boutique come from a Connecticut connection. Suzanne Timerman is a native of Watertown who now works as a personal trainer in Greenwich, Connecticut. The boutique was her brainchild.

"The idea was, I looked in my own closet and realized I'd gone insane," Timerman said, laughing. "And I couldn't figure out what to do with all these fabulous things that I wasn't going to wear. And then I started realizing that I had a lot of clients and friends back in Greenwich who had the same issue."

Timerman was introduced to Drew Mangione, director of development at the Urban Mission.

"And I thought, 'Wait a minute – I can bring these two fields together here, and come up with this great boutique," she said.

All the gently used clothing came from her clients – and the new clothing came from another client who works as a liquidator.

"Greenwich is a stylin' town," Timerman said, laughing. 

And now Watertown is, too.

Shoppers said they're happy to support the Urban Mission with their purchases. All items were donated and all profits – about $6,500 – go to the Mission's programs to help the needy, including a food pantry, case management for addiction and emergency aid to families.