On Monday, Columbia College students and staff celebrated the grand re-opening of the students’ free store, Koala Boutique, where the college community can get good quality recycled clothing and home furnishings for free.

The original free store first opened in a small room in the Student Union around the time of the major Midlands floods  in October 2015. Now completely revamped with items hung or folded for display, students can easily navigate different styles, colors and sizes of clothing that they can take home at no charge.

“Obviously being a college student, we’re not all financially stable to get new things. But we want to feel good about ourselves. If you get something new, it kind of boosts your confidence,” said Ariel Prescott, a student at the small United Methodist women’s college in North Columbia. 

The boutique is a project of a class known as Business 245: Foundations of the Fashion Industry. Under the guidance of course instructor Annette Hoover, a local retail and event planning expert, the students planned the store layout, and decorated and shelved the merchandise.

“This was their idea,” Hoover said. “We wanted a project that would give them the inspiration for what the future would hold, whether you want to go into business and be your own boss, or if you want to be in the fashion design industry.”

The fashion students painted, designed and structured the store with the help of local vendors. The store has received donations from donors such as Jo-Lin’s Bridal & Formal Wear, which donated 42 evening gowns for the upcoming spring formal and Belk, which donated furniture and mannequins.

“The purpose of the store is to help students. There’s a lot of financial need they have. What we wanted to do was provide the Columbia College community the opportunity to come in and get what’s needed,” Hoover said.

Anyone from the community who would like to visit the store may contact Melissa Brannen, assistant dean and director of multicultural affairs at (803) 786 -3888. Donations to the store can be dropped off at the store’s location on the lower level of the Columbia College Student Union. Clothing should be washed prior to being donated.

The Koala Boutique, formerly known as the Free Store, is a on-campus free store for students and the community to obtain and exchange different types of clothing for men and women and home furnishings. 

Columbia College President Carol Moore cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the store to students and the community.

The Koala Boutique is a college student project under the direction of instructor Annette Hoover, who teaches the Business 245 Foundations of the Fashion Industry course.