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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 15, 2011

At Carpenter Commons
Berke offers fashion advice and found treasures, next-to-new clothes and gifts, at stylish store

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Alice Berke is still unpacking boxes to stock her store, New-ish, Inc. at Carpenter Commons on Western Avenue.

“I’ve been calling it open-ish,” she quipped. Although the official grand opening isn’t until Sept. 20, customers have spotted the distinctive blue sign — the hyphen in New-ish is a T-shirt on a hanger — and started shopping.

The new store is a labor of love for Berke, who practiced law for 25 years. “I loved it for 23 years; the last two, I was unhappy,” she recounted. “I said, ‘I should do something that makes me happy.’”

Berke has long loved going to estate sales, yard sales, and church rummage sales — searching for bargain treasures. So she put her talents to work, stocking her store. Berke’s fiancé, Adam Dunn, a graphic designer who works for the Ravena News-Herald, owns the shop that she runs.

Berke stresses that hers is not a consignment shop. People keep stopping by her store with old clothes to sell. “I don’t want their stuff,” said Berke. First of all, she said, bookkeeping is complicated for a consignment shop.

Second, she went on, “I would have to charge my customers more. I didn’t want to be an expensive boutique kind of place.”

She stocks clothes for all ages, in all sizes — for women and men, for juniors and children, and she carries plus sizes, too.

“I don’t use the word ‘used.’ I say ‘pre-owned’ or ‘next to new,’” said Berke.

She also sells knickknacks and giftware. “It’s a big trend in Europe to give second-hand gifts,” she said. “People spend so much at Christmastime, but they don’t have to.” The gifts for sale at her shop, Berke said, are like new.

Berke serves as a professional fashion advisor for her customers. As an undergraduate at Cazenovia College, she majored in fashion design and merchandizing. “Summers, I worked in the garment district,” she said. One summer, she earned a certificate in fashion design from the prestigious Parsons School of Design.

“I can help people put together outfits,” said Berke. So, for example, if someone comes into her shop to buy a pair of black slacks, she can suggest a blouse and jacket that would complement the outfit.

Because she knows her stock intimately, Berke said, she can make suggestions that staff at other, larger places couldn’t.

The shop itself is bright and airy, decorated in black and white with bursts of royal blue and burgundy. “So many second-hand stores have the grandma’s attic look and feel,” said Berke. “I wanted my store to look modern and smell fresh.”

A bevy of well-dressed mannequins will model clothes for her website — www.New-ish.com — which is still under construction.

Berke, who lives now in Albany, said she is “desperately looking for a house in Guilderland.” It has to be a ranch on one floor since she’s adopted a foster child, Nikki Salem, “a little girl who needs to be constantly watched.”

Her 13-year-old son, Benjamin Salem, helped her set up the new business. “His IQ is in the top half of 1 percent in the world,” she said. “He’s very technological.”

She concluded, “He has worked his butt off to get this store off the ground. In fact, he hated to leave it to start school.”

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