Today is my anniversary. On September 23, 1975, I opened One More Time, gently-used good clothes, in a blue-collar neighborhood of Columbus Ohio. Doesn’t seem that long ago. That’s my father, there, with the broom. He also painted my “coming soon” sign (which went up the literal MINUTE I signed the lease) and was the owner of the Ford station wagon (1969 vintage if I remember correctly) that’s reflected in the shop windows.
I had, in reserve that September day, all the money I had in the world (less than 3 months’ expenses for the shop); a father and step-mother willing if necessary to feed me; a boyfriend willing if necessary to pay my apartment rent; and a whole lotta moxie.
I talked the landlord into taking half the rent for the first 6 months, then taking 1 1/2 the rent the remaining 6 months of the lease. Figured (correctly) that would help my cash flow.
When, a few weeks after opening, several customers mentioned that they had been hesitant to come in because the window displays made the shop look expensive (one of my past jobs had been as a window trimmer), I started doing the windows less perfectly. I didn’t know where to buy price tags (this was pre-Google, remember!) so I used little squares of paper safety-pinned to the upper left chest. I found a lot of peach index cards on sale, so for the first couple years, all my financial records were in peach. Sales counter? Door on frame, sided in plywood, created in BF’s garage (and believe me, he was no finish carpenter!)
Now one thing you have to realize is: back then/ there: NO ONE had a clue as to what consignment MEANT, yet alone how it worked. A whole buncha time was spent explaining the whole idea. By me, in between everything else! Dressing room? I replaced the door to the storage closet tucked under the staircase that led to the upstairs offices with “saloon doors”, swinging half-height shutters. Layaways? In the bathroom. Which I had to WAIT to use (remember, I worked alone) until a friendly pair of local secretaries (Nancy the blonde and Mary the brunette) stopped by every lunch-hour to relieve me for 5 minutes!
A part of any profits I made, those first few months, went to the Grandview Cab Co. because my old red-and-black Toyota often refused at 8am to transport me from my German Village apartment to my Grandview Heights shop.
Yes, my parents fed me more often than not (my step-mother made her charity festive by bringing me lunch disguised as a “shop picnic”… her AMC Gremlin would pull up outside and my tastebuds would perk right up), but The Boyfriend never did have to help out with my living expenses (and yes, he’s STILL The Boyfriend).
A year after opening, I had two (very) part-time employees (both of whom became full-timers and stayed on for 8-9 years longer) and I was able to buy a house. A modest house, yes, but houses should be modest.
Eight years later I began publishing a newsletter for consignment, resale and thrift shop owners. A few years after that, I wrote the first edition of Too Good to be Threw, The Complete Operations Manual for Consignment Shops (now, in 2008, in its 20th Anniversary edition!)
Twenty years after I opened the shop I sold the business to my manager of ten years and retired at the ripe old age of 48, only to start a career as the web hostess of Too Good to be Threw, www.TGtbT.com (as you can see, I thought the name was too good to be threw as well!) and just recently began HowToConsign.com, a site where prospective resale suppliers and customers can learn about how the industry can make, and save, them money. One More Time is still growing and prospering under the guidance of Chris Cowman, who not only succeeded at shopkeeping, but who has fulfilled a dream of hers: to become president of the industry association!
So if you doubt you can make a success of a small (mine started out at 750 sq ft) shop on an even smaller budget, remember me, way back when people didn’t even understand consignment!