Margo Hudson, Single Mothers Volunteer, Is A Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Former Owner of Famed Margo Boutique Now Leads the Volunteers who Run Closet on Main, Single Mothers Outreach’s Clothing Resale Store in Newhall
As longtime owner of the upscale Margo clothing boutique in Newhall, Margo Hudson gained lots of experience in running a stylish retail store. After closing shop, Hudson came out of retirement a few years ago to share her expertise with the nonprofit group Single Mothers Outreach of Santa Clarita.
Today, the former fashionista serves as leader of the volunteers who run SMO’s Closet on Main clothing store in downtown Newhall, which provides free clothing to single moms, dads and their kids.
And when any other member of the Santa Clarita Valley community shops there, all the proceeds from their purchases go to Single Mothers Outreach to help cover the organization's expenses and fund programs like financial literacy courses for its members.
Margo Hudson’s experience, style and smarts have brought impressive results to Closet on Main, which opened in February 2013. And that’s just part of why she is KHTS’s latest Santa Clarita Unsung Hero presented by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
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At Closet on Main, Hudson carries on the Margo tradition of great customer service as she and her all-volunteer crew help struggling single parents keep nice clothes on their families' backs and keep their dignity at the same time.
Word has spread fast about Closet on Main since it opened. By July’s monthly event for single parents, 25 SMO clients picked out more than 600 pieces of needed clothing at the store.
On one Saturday in August, another 100 single parents showed up and took home more than 1,000 items for their kids. Everything was free to SMO’s moms and dads. Thanks to the continuing flood of donations from compassionate Santa Clarita Valley residents, there’s lots more clothing where that came from.
Hudson is a Reluctant Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
When KHTS contacted Margo Hudson with the news she’d been chosen a Santa Clarita Unsung Hero, and invited her to guest on the air, she was reluctant at first.
“I’m not the hero,” she said — an initial response characteristic of a true Santa Clarita Unsung Hero.
RELATED: Read all of KHTS's Santa Clarita Unsung Heroes features brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
She insisted the real heroes behind Closet on Main are DaAnne Smith, SMO’s executive director, and the more than a dozen other volunteers who help Hudson run the shop six days a week.
When we suggested she could use her on-air interview as an opportunity to thank the other volunteers publicly, and spread the word about Closet on Main, Hudson agreed to visit KHTS.
A few days later, she was a special in-studio guest on the air with George Cummings, KHTS-AM 1220's morning drive air personality. Once introduced and on the air, Hudson especially wanted to credit Smith. It was her vision to open a storefront where SMO could sell all its donated clothing to raise funds, and where single mothers could get quality clothing for their kids at no charge.
Opening the New Closet on Main in Newhall
“DaAnne Smith was a customer of mine at Margo,” Hudson said. “When I closed the store, I read in the paper that she was involved in a program that gave (clothing) to mothers, called The Closet. One day I went to see her and asked, ‘What is this all about?’”
At the time, Single Mothers Outreach headquarters and The Closet were hidden away in a small office in an industrial strip mall off Reuther Avenue in Canyon Country. Hudson offered to volunteer at The Closet, and Smith gratefully accepted.
When SMO moved its headquarters to Newhall Avenue and Carl Court in 2012, though, there was no space at the new location for The Closet.
“Single moms were saying, ‘Margo, what are we going to do now?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll find you a place,’” Hudson said.
One day that fall, Hudson was walking down Main Street in Old Town Newhall with Terri Schwartz and Maria Hicks, who had worked with her at Margo for 30 years, and saw a storefront.
“From then on I became obsessed with it,” Hudson told Cummings. “That’s the one I wanted, no doubt about it. That was in September. We eventually signed a lease in December, but couldn’t open until February (2013) because of a fire next door.”
Rechristened Closet on Main, the store reinvents and refines the concept of a second-hand thrift shop. It’s more like a clothing resale boutique. The shelves, tables and racks are stuffed with many quality items attractive not only to single moms, but also to a cross-section of paying customers, among them upscale professionals, sophisticated mavens and even trend-conscious, budget-minded teen shoppers.
How Closet on Main Works
Closet on Main at 24335 Main Street in Newhall 91321 is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the third Thursday night of the month during the Senses- and city of Santa Clarita-sponsored themed events on Main Street in Old Town Newhall. It’s closed on Sunday.
While shoppers at Margo were greeted with a glass of champagne, Closet on Main offers cookies and coffee. But there is no shortage of culture at the Main Street store.
The room is warm, comfortable and well lit (a pair of skylights brighten the main part of the store). There is framed fine art on the walls, a fancy setting for tea or coffee in the welcome area, and a huge mirror in a vintage wood frame. Those and other nice furnishings give the store a touch of class.
Single mothers (or fathers) register with SMO, and become eligible for a private shopping event every month where they can pick out eight clothing items for each member of their family, Hudson explained. There are no other restrictions. That adds up to almost 100 items per year per person, representing a meaningful savings on a single-parent family’s clothing budget.
Single mothers can also earn extra clothing by volunteering at the store. Having that safety net, knowing their kids are going to be clothed decently, no matter how fast they grow out of things, can be a big relief, Hudson said.
“When you are with these women who come for help at Closet on Main, their self-esteem is very low, and having clothes and knowing someone cares makes a big difference,” she said. “Our Single Mothers Outreach program that we offer there really helps them. When anyone walks into Closet on Main, we have our little social corner where they can sit. We have free coffee, we have cookies. We love the kids, they are so cute!”
Hudson told Cummings more about what made SMO’s August event so special.
“We had free breakfast provided by the Newhall Life Church, across the street,” she said. “Tony, a wonderful man, set out scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, bagels and all that stuff. Then the mothers came into the Closet, got eight pieces of clothing per member of their family for free, and then went back across the street to Newhall Life Church and got a bag of groceries from them. All gratis.”
Closet on Main Volunteers, Donors and Supporters are the True Heroes
Hudson reminded Cummings the Closet on Main volunteers, donors and supporters are the most heroic characters in this story.
“I mentioned Terri and Maria, who have been with me 30 years and helped me launch Closet on Main and still give so much,” Hudson said. “There is Chad, 26 years, and so many others, like Patty Hopi, Patty Quashen, and Lori Jose — she works at the Food Pantry every Tuesday and comes and helps us as soon as she leaves there. I could mention a lot more who come and help. These are women who make people smile, and make them feel good.”
Still, as Closet on Main volunteer coordinator, Hudson deserves recognition for setting the tone that inspires her charges' dedication. They have all learned much about retailing and customer service from the former Margo proprietor.
Before her Santa Clarita Unsung Hero radio interview segment wrapped up, Hudson wanted to thank residents for backing SMO and helping the Closet on Main survive and thrive.
“All the furnishings, our washer-dryer, the water heater, the coffee machine, desk, computer, were given to us by people here,” Hudson said. “They were either previous customers or connections I had. It is really incredible. A lot of people in the community have come out to support us, and they can’t believe the good feelings they have when they get there.”
More with Margo Hudson: KHTS Visits Closet on Main
Later the same afternoon, this reporter also experienced those good feelings on a visit to Closet on Main to see the sights, take a few pictures and talk more with Margo Hudson. I also had the opportunity to speak with one of the longtime Closet volunteers and a few young shoppers out on a “thrifting” spree.
As I walked into Closet on Main, noting its front entry is between the Lloyd Bridges and Gary Cooper saddle plaques on Main Street’s famed Walk of Western Stars, Hudson was busy at the register, ringing up a small purchase by a young mom named Nallely (na-YELL-ee) for her eight-month old daughter (pictured).
A mysterious stranger intervened and paid for the mom’s invoice instead, apparently as a random act of kindness. Nallely spoke no English, but her smile expressed her thanks.
A few minutes later, Hudson and I sat down at the table in the front reception area to chat more about her and all the fun she’s having in her un-retirement years.
Closet on Main has a ‘Touch of Margo’
As many longtime SCV locals know, Margo was the well-known fashion outlet Hudson, then Margo Miller, founded and operated for three decades. Her boutique was just off Lyons Avenue in Newhall. It had a reputation for flair; as noted earlier, the sales associates greeted customers by name and offered them a glass of champagne. At Margo, Miller prided herself on focusing on the whole woman, including shoes, accessories and hair.
Now, looking around the Closet on Main interior, one can see and feel its kinship to the original Margo boutique.
“It’s like a touch of Margo,” she said. “A lot of people who come in say, ‘Oh, my God, this feels so wonderful. It looks like a Margo.’ It’s bigger here. We have so many clothes. It’s a little harder to make it beautiful when you walk in, but we do a good job of it.”
The items’ quality also puts Closet on Main at least a few notches above most second-hand stores. “The clothes are superior,” Hudson said. This is more of a "clothing resale boutique” than thrift shop, she added.
The "Shelley's Fashions" room at Closet on Main has many designer items at bargain prices.
Hudson pointed out a stylish girl’s jacket on a rack near the front entrance. “That’s designer clothing, maybe Donna Karan. It’s amazing,” she said. “And (another donor) gave us brand-new suits from Italy. We resell them here for $15, and single parents don’t have to pay. It’s wonderful.”
Hudson First Lived in the SCV 45 Years Ago
Hudson recalled she first lived in the Valencia area in 1968, when low prices for new homes were the main attraction in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“The freeway stopped at the top of Lyons Avenue back then,” she said. “We didn’t know how great the schools were then. We just knew homes were affordable.”
In the mid-1980s, as the Margo boutique developed into a successful small business, Margo Miller moved to Westwood, and commuted to her Newhall boutique daily for the next two decades.
“I always said, ‘This is where I live, and over there is where I sleep,’” she said. “I moved back (to the Santa Clarita Valley) in 2006. That is when I met Bob, and in 2008 we got married.”
Hudson was referring to her husband, C.R. “Bob” Hudson, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. Since connecting as a couple (pictured at right in 2009), they have both participated in and supported numerous community and nonprofit events in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Margo Hudson’s own two kids are long grown, and she now has three grandchildren. Her daughter lives in Acton, and her son, his wife and grandchildren are in Canyon Country. “Stephen and Lisa used to work at Margo, so I’d see them every day,” she said. “I’ve seen the kids from the time they were born.”
Now, at Closet on Main, Hudson is delighted when the neighborhood moms just drop in with their youngsters to say hello and maybe shop for an item or two.
“We made it a very welcoming place, some people we see every day. And I love the little kids that come in — they’re absolutely incredible,” she said.
Patricia Quashen, a Closet on Main Volunteer and Single Mom who Gives and Gets Back
A few minutes later, Saugus resident Patricia Quashen (pictured) took a minute from dressing one of the Closet on Main front windows to tell me why she volunteers there.
“Two reasons,” she said. “I am a single mother in our community now, and to give back to the community, because I think it’s really important to give our time and to share with others and enrich those around us.”
Quashen described a typical volunteer shift at Closet on Main.
“We separate clothing — there are a lot of donations coming in, and we’re very, very happy about that,” she said. “We change the front windows — dress the windows. Of course, we have to keep the place clean. Customer service is big with us, from the greeting. Everything that needs to be done, we all work together. We’re all volunteers, so it’s a great family.”
Quashen said about eight volunteers work each day, rotating in and out as their schedules allow.
“I do Mondays because that works for my schedule, and some people might do just once a month,” she said. “But even if they can only give an hour of their time, we greatly appreciate that. Whether it’s an hour or 20 hours, it’s all gratefully accepted.”
Quashen also holds down two day jobs, for the city of Los Angeles (Department of Recreation and Parks), and helping troubled teens and young adults through art therapy at family-owned Action Family Counseling. Quashen typifies the busy, community-involved volunteer for Single Mothers Outreach.
Teen ‘Thifters’ Targeting Closet on Main: 'Not Everything's Made in China'
About then, three young women walked into Closet on Main and began browsing the racks, looking for treasures at bargain prices. Mady McCormack is a Saugus High School student, and her friends Marissa Flores and Siana Espinoza are recent Saugus grads (pictured).
Espinoza told me she volunteered at the store a few months ago and liked it.
“It’s really nice and neat and they have a lot of nice things here,” she said.
When I asked if she finds things she actually wears, I'm sure my tone sounded a shade skeptical. It's a reporter's nature.
“Yeah, of course,” she said, with a deserved shade of 'tude. Fair enough.
Espinoza's shopping partner McCormack said the three friends wanted to “go ‘thrifting’ that day, and Siana told us about this place, so we thought we’d check it out. I’ve never been here before. I like it a lot.”
Flores said she likes “thrifting” at places like Closet on Main because “it’s kind of like recycling, for clothes. It’s good that they don’t have to mass-produce anything. You can find more unusual pieces (here). Not everything’s made in China.”
Closet on Main’s Clients and Customers Raise Hudson’s Consciousness
“I have always felt, since I was young, that it makes you feel better when you give than when you receive,” Margo Hudson said. “So (Closet on Main) has really raised my consciousness, because here I meet every culture, language, financial situation. We have attorneys, government representatives, secretaries, hospital employees, executives shopping here.
“And to work here — you have no idea how much fun this place is,” she said. “Look at all the workers I have this morning (about half a dozen, including Quashen). They’re all excellent. I have two single moms here today, and the other ones are all part of this community. I’m proud of that.”
Listen to the Podcast
Listen to the podcast of KHTS’s complete on-air interview with Margo Hudson and learn more about this KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero’s good deeds.
All photos by Stephen K. Peeples except Bob and Margo Hudson, courtesy the Hudsons.
Mercedes-Benz of Valencia Salutes Santa Clarita's Unsung Heroes
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