Promoting positivity by prompting young adults to think about self-image and ways to change the world is one of the joys of business ownership for Plato’s Closet Valparaiso owner Tammy Wendland.

“Our model search is the biggest thing that we do, and it allows us to be involved in the community,” she says. “It feels good to be able to make an impact as a small business owner.”

The event sparks young adults to focus on such questions as: “How do you plan to change the world?” or “How are you beautiful inside and out?” The winners receive a night of special treatment, from professionally done hair and dinner to a limo ride and celebration with loved ones. Winners are featured on billboards and social media venues.

“It helps them with public speaking, feeling empowered and seeing what they can accomplish,” she says. “We’re asking these types of questions to promote important ideals.”

Wendland’s location is the 500th for the franchise, which buys and sells clothes and accessories that are on trend to all ages. The staff is trained to have an eye for what will work and won’t work in the area when it comes to purchasing everything from jewelry to athletic wear.

She began looking into being part of the Winmark Corp. after coming upon the idea by accident.

“We were looking up the hours of a Plato’s location online when I realized that it was a franchise,” she says. “My head started spinning and I wondered if we could do this? We investigated it further and realized that it was an option for our family.”

The business was a first for Wendland, who has a degree in education and has worked as a teacher and at a nonprofit. Part of the appeal for Wendland was the ability to have her family involved, including her husband, John, and two children, Heather and Johnny. The two have both worked at the store over the years with customers and on social media.

The doors officially opened in 2014 and the number of employees can fluctuate based on the season with typically five full-time and around five part-time workers.

“The connection to our customers is critical to our success,” she says. “We enjoy hearing from customers through ‘love notes’ on social media and connecting with all ages.”

Wendland is always looking for ways to engage with the community and has supported many organizations, including local law enforcement, schools and nonprofits.

“I really enjoy what I do and while I helped with my kids’ schools and fund-raising before, there is something different about being a business owner. It has a different flavor,” she says. “I can’t put my finger on it, but it is good. I can take my experience and lasso it to become even more involved and do greater things.”


Plato’s Closet

3125 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso