Goodbyes are never easy and this goodbye is no exception.
In the recent months, it was announced that the corporate retailer Charlotte Russe would be closing its doors and the many individuals employed would be out of work. We met at “Cha-Ru” and shared many memories - good and bad - over the years.
Charlotte Russe was my very first “real job”, you know, one that wasn’t paid under the table. I was hired straight out of high school as an 18 year old looking for job experience and something to help support my hobbies and social life throughout my upcoming four years of college. I was immediately taken aback by the rough exterior / abrasive nature of management and the verbal abuse that reoccurred each day, but I quickly came to make some life-long friends and found a safe space to be myself and explore my younger years.
Whether I was opening fitting rooms, getting shoe sizes from the back, working the register, mopping the floors, doing “go-backs” (putting away clothes that were tried on - a never ending journey!), creating merchandise displays, or helping our customers find that perfect dress for their friend’s wedding or clubbing that Friday night, I built up a seriously strong work ethic and the emotional skillset necessary to bounce back from tough situations… and people.
From boyfriends to boyfriend jeans, Charlotte Russe molded me during some of the most trying, informative years of my life. I still get that nostalgic feeling when I walk past the store in the mall. I’ll miss seeing those pink window clings and “BOGO” deals. This feels like a very solidifying moment for the two of us - closing the door on this chapter of our lives. If there’s one thing I remember our awful leader telling us, it was: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” The lessons that she and Cha-Ru bestowed upon me have shaped the leader, manager and business owner I am today — and for that, I’m forever grateful for Store #459.
Charlotte Russe to me always felt like an old boyfriend. Things didn’t quite work out in the end, but I could always go back if I needed to. I got hired at Charlotte starting in the fall of 2012 when I was in the start of my last year in college in Olympia, Washington. I lived in an apartment literally across the street from the mall and my days were spent either at school, work or studying. Charlotte gave me the means to support myself during school, but it became a lot more than that.
I quickly made myself apart of something a lot bigger than just the store, and found myself surrounded by a group of strong, intelligent and unique women. The manager of the store was not a pleasant individual and a lot of us had a strained relationship with her, including myself. The ladies at this store were mostly other college students, some girls were local to Olympia and some were from out of town like me. I felt like we had a bond inside and outside of work — out of sheer survival. There were lots of Applebee’s dates, pizza and movie nights with the other girls. Late nights closing after school and early mornings opening before classes. I’ll look back on those memories fondly.
I also wore a lot of bow ties and suspenders un-ironically as a rebellion against the dress code at first, and then it quickly became my trademark style at work. It wasn’t a walk in the park for me, this was a period in my life with a lot of transition and uncertainty. I continued to work at Charlotte after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree and moved home to Vancouver for the summer to mildly panic and calculate what my next move would be.
I was able to transfer to the store near my parents house and creating a whole new set of friendships. This was also a different circumstance with management and our manager was so kind and always understanding. This clique was harder to get in for me, I think because I felt weird being at a new store, but after I was in I felt very supported by the girls at this location and found a new home. After the summer, I left for London for a year but I returned yet AGAIN after coming home. Charlotte became this transitional, Mary Poppins-type place for me, it was there when I needed it to be, but was okay when I felt like I grew out of it.
I haven’t worked at a Charlotte since early 2015, but upon hearing of the bankruptcy I feel myself getting really emotional and sad. This place has been with me through all of my uncertain periods in my life. Most importantly, I don’t know if I would have gotten into my now-career as a flight attendant if I didn’t have the customer service skills that I obtained during this job. Retail is a different kind of beast — it will make you AND break you. It taught me how much I love working with and helping people, and gave me my lifelong friend and partner Kathryn. I had the opportunity to work with so many BOLD women in a very feminine environment!
If you ask me, this bankrupt business did a lot more for me than advertised when I applied.
Thank you, Charlotte Russe, for your great moments AND your bad. It was all worth it and all beautiful to me.
Have any thoughts on the recent Charlotte Russe bankruptcy? Were you once an employee or customer?
Leave it in the comments below!
the writers: KATHRYN & EMMA
Kathryn and Emma are the bloggers behind FashionablyFrank.com. Kathryn is the founder and lead blogger, while Emma is a part-time contributor. Emma is the travel, beauty, crafts and DIY guru. Kathryn is the mastermind behind career and general organizational life hacks.