Anacostia's First Consignment Shop Opens

Sofine Williams, a native Washingtonian, opened The Last Shall Be First Consignment Boutique on April 8. It is the first consignment shop located east of the Anacostia River. Photo: Charnice A. Milton

As the youngest in her family, Sofine Williams says she was last at everything. While her siblings are married with children, she is still single. However, when she opened The Last Shall Be First Consignment Boutique in Ellicot City, Maryland, she became the first in her family to own a business. A year later Williams opened her second store in Historic Anacostia.

Beginnings 

When she decided to open a location in the city, one of the places Williams looked at was Blank Space SE on Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue. In March ARCH Development Corporation, which owns Blank Space, announced that the creative rental space would move to the Anacostia Arts Center. By the end of the month Williams had signed a lease and transformed the almost 1,000 square-foot property into a fashion-forward boutique.

Since opening on April 8 business has been doing well, mostly due to word of mouth and minimal advertising. “You don't expect people to accept you so quickly,” Williams says. “The business here has already exceeded the Ellicot store.” People regularly come in and wish her good luck.

First of Its Kind

Williams, a native Washingtonian, noted that there were no consignment shops east of the Anacostia River when she was growing up. Shoppers had to travel to Capitol Hill for such deals. “I believe that it's time for us to have the same types of opportunities as others,” says Williams. To serve residents with smaller budgets The Last Shall Be First offers one-, two-, and three-dollar deals every day. The shop currently has only women's clothing, but starting on June 3 it will also offer men's. 

Doing Things Differently

“When I opened the shop, people asked, 'Are you sure?'” Williams recalls. Despite negative perceptions about the Anacostia area she has had few problems with her customers. “In Chevy Chase, there are no glass walls to keep people out,” she said. “I didn't want to do that and make people uncomfortable.” However, she does have a sign warning against stealing. “People actually respect the sign,” Williams says. 

The Community Store

Williams, who is also a minister, sees The Last Shall Be First as an extension of her ministry. The name was inspired by Matthew 20:16: “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” “When God gave me the name The Last Shall Be First, I was thinking about Anacostia,” she says. “I believe in bringing H.O.P.E. to the community.” In this case, H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Our People Evolve. Williams explains that some people, especially those living east of the Anacostia River, feel like they are shunned. Therefore, she takes a community-driven approach to her work. 

One of the ways Williams engages the community is through special sales. For instance, in June the shop will begin Senior Saturdays every first and third Saturday of the month, for older residents who want to shop in peace. Another way is through community programming. Through a partnership with the Temple of Praise the shop will hold Summer Sessions every third Friday. Williams described them as a time for teens and children to relax and play games in a safe environment. She also plans to hold Saturday flea markets and invites people to bring things to sell free of charge.

Darlene Thomas, a friend and spiritual mentor, sums up the shop's mission like this: “Since The Last Shall Be First is from God, it puts [Sofine] in a position to advance others. It's not just a consignment shop, it's a safe haven for the community.”

The Last Shall Be First Consignment Boutique is located at 1922 Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave. SE. Hours are Monday through Wednesday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. to7:00 p.m. For more information call 202-294-2909 or email Thelast_1st@yahoo.com.