Jennifer Rado, a teacher for 18 years, dreamed of opening her own business.
"I love teaching," said the Explorer K-8 teacher and mother of a 12-year-old son and a second due in November. "But I wanted more."
She was inspired to pursue that vision when her father was diagnosed with cancer. "He started checking things off his list," she said. "I realized there were things I still hadn't done that I wanted to do."
With a spark for adventure but level-headed enough to search for a venture that had a strong dynamic to succeed, Rado had stumbled on what appeared to be a thriving concept in designer and brand name apparel.
"Everyone has heard of Plato's Closet," she said. The fresh idea of a brand name apparel and accessory exchange is the basis of Plato's Closet, with locations throughout Florida and the United States. And Rado was interested in bringing a Plato's Closet to Hernando County.
"I was intrigued by their business model," she said.
But the franchise halted her attempts, claiming that Hernando County wasn't supported with the right dynamics to open a store.
But Rado believed the county was being underestimated. As a school teacher, she was exposed to popular trends, and her gut told her she was on to something. So she searched for another alternative.
"If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right," she said. "Go big or go home. I needed all the help I could get."
And she got it, in the form of Hut no. 8, another franchise with the same basic idea as Plato's Closet. But it had an added appeal in aesthetics. It closely mimicked popular design stores like Hollister and Abercrombie in appearance.
The atmosphere is dark and soothing, with a tin tiled roof and dark wood accents. The "island" tone flows throughout, with an interior appeal that targets teens and young adults who are drawn to the look.
Rado purchased the franchise and set the process in motion. With the help of her dedicated friends and family, Hut no. 8 opened in July.
"It was truly a labor of love," Rado said.
Hut no. 8 is located in the Coastal Shopping Center, huddled between h.h. gregg and Office Depot, and is thriving after just two months.
"We are 80 percent pre-owned merchandise, 20 percent new," Rado said. "You would be surprised at how many people come in with things still with tags."
Brands you would find on the racks include Juicy Couture, Charlotte Russe, Hurley, Billabong, Dooney & Bourke, Gucci, Betsy Johnson, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, and many more.
Many of the labels, like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch, have strict resale rules, Rado said. That ensures the items in her store are not dated or out of style. And Rado's quality assurance begins when the items are first inspected.
Rado encourages sellers to make an appointment. "I give them the rundown of what we take," she said, which changes often according to specific and the changing seasons. "I'm only taking skinny jeans right now," she added.
Most sellers want her to buy their entire lot. "And that is my goal," she said. "I want to buy everything. If it's in excellent condition and it's what I told them I am looking for, then I will buy it. If it's too worn or has holes, I will pass on it. I only want what I know I can sell."
Rado pays on average 30 percent of what she knows she can sell the item for. "And people are happy with that," she said. "I pay $2.80 to $3 for a Hollister shirt." And Hut no. 8 sells their merchandise for between 50 to 80 percent off retail prices.
The display inside Hut no. 8 is very eye-pleasing, with fashions put together and arranged by the staff. "I like to give my staff an opportunity to be creative," she said. "If they are tired of looking at something, I tell them to move it."
Rado employs several young people to run her store including Frankie Rodriguez of Spring Hill. Rodriguez, a sophomore at PHCC studying emergency medical services, has a radiant smile and engaging personality. And she loves the styles Hut no. 8 takes in regularly.
Things don't stay on the racks long, Rodriguez said. "We will put clothes out and not even 20 minutes later they're gone," she said. Her best advice: "If you see something in here, you'd better get it because it probably won't be here tomorrow."
Hernando County's Hut no. 8 is the 23rd store to open across the country and the ninth in Florida, Rado said.
"This is very trendy right now. And it's not just because it's affordable."
Hut no. 8 is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Biz at a Glance
Biz at a Glance
Name: Hut no. 8
Address: 13185 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville
Telephone: (352) 600-8925