Free dress store aims to ease prom burden

Parker Secret Closet provides outfits for special night

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/8/20

Standing in a labyrinth of dress racks, in a walled-off corner of a warehouse in Parker, Kiva Frey stopped to enjoy the light she finally found at the end of the tunnel. “I feel like I’m at a …

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Free dress store aims to ease prom burden

Parker Secret Closet provides outfits for special night

Posted

Standing in a labyrinth of dress racks, in a walled-off corner of a warehouse in Parker, Kiva Frey stopped to enjoy the light she finally found at the end of the tunnel.

“I feel like I’m at a place now where I feel I’ve done what I wanted to do,” Frey said through tears.

Two years ago, the Parker Secret Closet bore more resemblance to its name. What grew out of Frey’s basement, only accessible through an appointment, the specialty thrift store found a suitable storefront. The nonprofit, founded by Frey, began with the mission to give every teenager a dress to wear on prom night.

After a couple temporary locations in various vacant spaces around Parker, the Parker Secret Closet moved into a 1,000 square-foot space at the new Solomon Centre building at 17151 Pine Lane, completed just last year. The store opened the doors to its storefront Feb. 1, a side entrance around the corner from the Southeast Community Outreach (SECOR) free food market leading to the makeshift, walled-off thrift store with hundreds of formalwear.

The nonprofit’s three board members, Frey, Leah Ryan and Erin Jones, could not help but look back at where they all started.

“We’re just a bunch of moms from Parker that just started collecting dresses,” Frey said.

The Parker Secret Closet allows anyone to shop from the store’s collection of donated clothes—mostly modern, single-use dresses suited for homecoming and prom—for free. The clothes each have a tagged suggested donation amount, ranging from about $15 to $25, but the point of the store, Frey said, is to normalize thrift shopping for dresses.

“We’re trying to really encourage kids to not spend $500 on a dress when you can use that money for AP classes or college or a car,” Frey said. “Our whole purpose is to allow kids who don’t have any means to be able to shop for free with dignity.”

Frey, Ryan and Jones are responsible for bringing the store where it is today. None, admittedly, has had any experience running a nonprofit or a thrift store — Frey said she worked at one briefly in high school — but are all driven by the same purpose: to give every kid a prom night.

“There are a lot of families where that’s just not in the cards to have a night out like that,” Jones said. “Especially for families that are in need, to be able to have a night and feel like a teenager without this financial stress and without worrying about what’s going on at home and getting to be a kid, is really where the passion is for us.”

The store does not ask for any personal information prior to shopping. Shoppers are asked to sign up for a “library card” online to help keep tabs on the communities they’re serving. Many of the dresses are donated from local families—a few still have their original tags.

Kaeleigh Grizzle, a junior at Ponderosa High School, is a member of the store’s student volunteers, who act as ambassadors to their peers who may struggle to pay for a prom or homecoming dress. Grizzle said she understands how stressful it can be for students who have difficulty affording a prom dress.

Prom night can break the bank for girls having to spend hundreds of dollars on a one-time use dress. The average prom can cost up to $1,500 before dinner, Jones said, and that’s for the dress, hair, makeup, nails and accessories.

“To spend that for one night can be pretty anxiety-inducing for parents and kids,” Jones said. “Everyone wants their perfect, Cinderella night. We’re hoping we can provide that so kids can have cash after graduation.”

The Parker Secret Closet signed a five-year lease to share with SECOR at the Solomon Centre. Frey may need to step aside once she moves farther from Parker—she currently lives in Denver to be closer to her grandparents. From humble beginnings, Frey feels like she’s excited for what the future holds.

“As we keep moving around, we keep adjusting to adapt to our new environment. This seemed to make sense here,” Frey said.

Frey recalled the feeling of the first prom dress she bought when she was a senior in high school and was moved to tears.

“I just remember how magical I felt. I was a princess,” Frey said. “This kind of evens the playing field and gives everybody the opportunity to be part of something.”

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