Bargain Plaza offers a thrifty alternative to the mall

Renton resident Chris Johns checks out fashions for the
Renton resident Chris Johns checks out fashions for the 'not-so-square,' as he puts it, at the recently opened Bargain Plaza in the Highlands.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

The former president of the local chain Boss Wear clothing stores has opened a fashionable discount store with his son in the Renton Highlands.

Chris Kim, who is now retired from Boss Wear operations, opened Bargain Plaza this winter with his son Kris. It is an 82,000-square-foot store with about 300 brands of clothing and accessories, sold at a 20 to 30 percent discount to mall prices. It is the first business venture for the 25-year-old son and a dream project for the 53-year-old father.

The senior Chris Kim has 30 years of experience in the retail clothing industry. He recognized an opportunity to open an outlet-type clothing store at the space in the Highlands off Sunset Boulevard. Passing by the complex, he thought it would be a great location to open a store if there was a vacancy. Once there was, he convinced his son to invest and Bargain Plaza opened.

The results have exceeded Chris' expectations, with repeat customers and sold-out items already. What he like most about his location in the Highlands is the diversity of the community.

"This community, No. 1 diversity," he said. "Oh, amazing diversity is what I like. Whatever I bring, it sells."

Chris recognizes that if he only catered to whites or Asians, his customer base would be very narrow.

"But here, I get everybody," Chris said. "I see Hispanic people coming, white folks coming, African American folks coming – just diversity. So I bring  everything; everything's here."

He keeps one Spanish-speaking employee in the store during all business hours to cater to the community, he says.

The Kim family features women's and men's clothes and accessories. The brand names one might not recognize, but the styles and trends are recognizable.

"It's a good store; they have a lot of nice stuff for like the type of shopping that I do," said Chris Johns of Renton.

His mother told him to come check out the store, knowing that it might have items he likes.

"They got a lot of hip items, hot items, for the not-so-square person, I guess," said Johns.

Just like this example, Chris has received a lot of repeat customers based on word of mouth and walk-ins, he said.

The Kims spent more than $24,000 to renovate the space with new lighting, painting, wall-systems and construction. Renovations took three months. The work paid off because Chris hears from customers all day long, how nice the store looks, he said.

"My concept is this one," he said. "Even though I sell everything cheap, I make sure customers feel comfortable when they come to the store. Because I'm selling cheap (goods) it doesn't have to be a really clumsy store."

His model is to keep store the store clean and prices low, so that it benefits the customer.

"I'm expecting good things out of this store, for sure, if I keep my mindset humble," Chris said. "That's very important."

He is able to keep the prices low, he said, by cutting out the middle men. His years in the retail industry have afforded him certain relationships with wholesalers and manufacturers. He deals directly with them. On some items, with his markdowns for customers, he knows he's not making much money, but his goal is to accommodate many shopper's budgets.

"I enjoy it when I buy it really cheap because of my relationships," Chris said. "But I'm going to drop the price according to my purchase price and keep it down."

Currently, Bargain Plaza has three part-time staff and Chris is there everyday. Going forward, he hopes he can improve every aspect of the store from price to merchandise to meet the people's needs.

Bargain Plaza is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 2819 NE Sunset Blvd. in the Renton Highlands. For more information call, 425-264-3982.

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