By EMMALEE C. TORISK
For the three, almost four, years after her accident, Teah Haddock couldn’t even sit up.
Back in 2007, a tractor-trailer had run a red light and smashed into her car, leaving her feeling as though she’d lost everything.
In a way, she had.
The psychotherapist who boasted five college degrees now spent her days laying on a couch at home, unable to work. But Haddock was determined not to let the temporary derailment of her life become permanent.
“Everyone has to have a purpose and be productive, or a part of them dies,” Haddock said. “We’re put on this earth in order to do something — I’m a firm believer in that. I could’ve done nothing after my accident, but that’s just not me.”
Haddock found her renewed purpose with help from the state’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, which provides the services and support necessary for individuals with disabilities to attain and maintain employment.
Staff there suggested Haddock’s starting a business of her own. The idea grew on her, especially as she considered the closing of several affordable, plus-size women’s clothing stores in the area.
“At that time, I was having a panic as a plus-sized woman,” Haddock said. “I was thinking, ‘Where can I afford to shop?’”
After submitting her business plan seven times, and earning almost $20,000 in funding, the Pretty and Plus Shop was in business by mid-July 2012.
The shop — which Haddock refers to as an “extremely selective consignment boutique,” stocking sizes 14 and up — originally was located at 8 State St. in downtown Struthers, then moved to its current location at 555 Fifth St. almost five months ago. It also offers items from other local women-owned businesses, including handmade soaps and cards.
Haddock said she quickly realized that for many of her customers, the Pretty and Plus Shop was much more than a retail store.
“I would have customers who would break into tears,” she recalled. “They would tell me how hard it is to find plus-sized clothing, especially affordable plus-sized clothing, in this area, and that the store was a warm, welcoming, hospitable place.”
Several of these customers, Haddock added, have since started volunteering their time, and are now the shop’s unofficial employees. An even larger group of customers, too, has taken to calling themselves “The Pretties,” attending theater productions and taking shopping trips together.
Two of those customers-turned-employees are Bobbie Chalky of Boardman and Jennie Jakubovic of Struthers, who have been faithful shoppers since the shop opened. Both said they were naturally drawn to the clothing selection at first, but that the friendships that have developed as a result keep them coming back.
“I wanted clothing that was reasonably priced,” Chalky said. “Now, I’m here one or two days a week.”
“The friendships have been remarkable,” added Jakubovic. “It’s so inviting here. You can feel it as soon as you come into the store.”
And that sense of connection or belonging is precisely what sets the Pretty and Plus Shop apart from stores that aren’t small businesses, Haddock said. She noted that aside from events geared toward customers — including a monthly after-hours social gathering and weekly belly dancing lessons — the shop also promotes community involvement.
It’s hosting a food drive for several local women who are struggling to get by, for example, and a collection for the homeless in Mahoning County.
The latter effort — which will “continue forever,” Haddock said — is part of the Open Arms Homeless Outreach program. Items being accepted include blankets, clothing and personal care items.
The shop is also offering Christmas cards for the military. Customers can select a card in which to write a message to the troops; the cards will be mailed — at no cost to customers — to the Holiday Mail for Heroes headquarters, then distributed to members of the military in time for the holidays. The deadline is Dec. 6.
Haddock added that she plans to continue to reach out to others, particularly through the opening of a nonprofit thrift store for the area’s homeless. She anticipates that this goal will become a reality within the next five years.
After all, she’s already put into motion the plans for her next store, Pretty Baby, which will carry new and gently used children’s clothing and accessories in sizes from infant to teen, along with maternity clothing. It will open sometime next year.
Haddock added that she also has plans for a store that offers other sizes of women’s clothing, and one for men’s clothing.
“I went from such despair to living a fairy-tale life,” Haddock said. “I have achieved every goal I have ever set for myself in my life, and I’m not going to leave this life with any regrets. I simply want to inspire and motivate other people.”
The Pretty and Plus Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, from 1 to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. On Sundays, the shop accepts consignments on a walk-in basis, and by appointment all other days.
For more information, visit the shop’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pretty.plusshop.9.