Lifting spirits in Staten Island, post Sandy

Charles Garone talks about the success of the Fashion Delivers Holiday Pop-up Shop on Staten Island and how it all came together.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast Charles Garone, the founder of the Aquilon traveling trade show and a veteran of the menswear trade show business, had an idea.

“I saw a post on Facebook from Community Board 1 Chair, Leticia Remauro, stating that the residents of Staten Island had lost everything, including their dignity. She said that one of the things they were in desperate need of, was new clothing,” Garone recalled. “I felt compelled to do something.”

Garone has been involved with Fashion Delivers since its inception, so he approached them with his idea for a holiday pop-up shop on Staten Island. “I wanted it to be a pleasant shopping experience, not a mere distribution of free product pulled out of boxes in a cold tent somewhere,” he said.

“The one catch was that I wanted it to happen before Christmas, which only gave us four weeks of planning,” Garone said. “I felt very strongly about the timing, as this pop-up shop could possibly lift many broken spirits this holiday season, which would be priceless. Allan Ellinger was more than enthusiastic and supportive of the project, as this was exactly what Fashion Delivers’ vision was when he founded it seven years ago.”

Fashion Delivers’ Allan Ellinger (right) helps a guest

The four weeks Garone had to put it together went fast and smooth, thanks to Leticia Remauro’s team. “The sense of community on Staten Island is astounding,” Garone said. “The pop-up shop was immediately connected with three agency partners: Third Day Mission Church, The Movement Church, and The Tunnel to Towers Foundation.”

The Vanderbilt Event Hall gave them the full run of their spacious facilities. In the end, said Garone, everything from the shipping trucks, rolling racks, the DJs, to the custom 5-foot wreath that hung in registration area was donated.

They expected about a thousand people (each of whom gained admittance to “shop” for free, via their FEMA numbers), but it grew to three times that.

“By the time the event started we had over $6 million in donations of new product, from brands like Ralph Lauren, Armani Exchange, Burlington Coat Factory, Men’s Wearhouse, ABS by Allen Schwartz, Skechers, Ben Sherman, French Connection, Uniqlo and Michael Kors,” he said. “We also got home goods, pet supplies and toys! Many industry executives actually donated their time working at the event, moving rolling racks, merchandising and assisting guests.

“Allan Ellinger was there with his wife Bernadette, Michael Setola brought his wife, Fashion Delivers Executive Director Gail Garramone was there with her husband who was moving boxes for two days straight! We also had the support from Joanne Mohr and Anna Cipriani both of ENK, MRket’s Lizette Chin and her daughter Gabi, Randi Mohr of George Little Management, Vince Gonzales of Cafe Bleu, Marc Zimmerman of Huyton Union, and former MR Magazine cover model Ray Testa,” Garone said.

Vince Gonzales and Charles Garone

In the end, the Fashion Delivers Holiday Pop-up Shop accomplished what it set out to do: help people. “I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who disrupted their holiday schedules, and got this accomplished. Most important, families walked into the Vanderbilt and were immediately moved by the sincere positive energy coming from all involved. They left with shopping bags full of much needed new product, and many left the building smiling with tears… It was a crazy month, but one of the most touching projects of my life.”

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