While Repeat Street might look every part the unassuming strip mall space as you drive past on Ridgewood Road, you'd kick yourself for weeks if you passed it up. A 9,000-square foot warehouse chock-full of contemporary and vintage clothing, furniture and accessories, it's a veritable treasure trove of gems. And with more than 2,000 items hitting the floor each day, you can bet you'll never get bored with the selection.
Thankfully, Michele Austin and her sister Karen Hughes aren't going anywhere. With the wild success they've already seen, this re-use center's here to stay.
• How did you get into consignment work?
My sister (Michele Austin) is the owner, and I work here with her. Our grandmother (in Arkansas) had an antique resale business. From the time we were children, we spent every weekend with her at auctions, estate sales and flea markets. We learned from an early age how to do this; it's just kind of always been in our blood.
• Explain your business concept for the novice consignor.
In the consignment business, we take the merchandise in and sell it on your behalf. We do 60-day contracts and split it with you 50/50. We go through the merchandise with (consignors) when they do a drop-off, and they get a little business card that has our name and phone number on it. On the back side it says: You dropped off your merchandise on this day, and on this day your merchandise will expire. And then it has a little note on it that says: Please call us two days in advance of your expiration date, and we can gather your merchandise for you.
• What happens to items that don't sell?
If your items sell, you get your money. If it doesn't sell, you have the option to pick them up, or we donate them to charity. We've done a lot of donation to Goodwill and Salvation Army, and also work with Dress for Success.
Back in October it was for breast-cancer awareness. The River Walk Casino in Vicksburg collected bras to string across the Mississippi River on a clothesline. They paid $2 for every bra collected; we collected over 700. Toward the end of the drive, there was an anonymous donor that matched River Walk's $2-per-bra, so we ended up raising around $2,800. Our community of consignors and customers are all very generous, so when we have an event like that we always have a really good turnout.
• Repeat Street fosters a real home-like atmosphere. Tell me what it's like to work so closely here with your sister.
We like our shoppers to be able to come in and feel like they're part of a family. I know when someone's had a baby, or when a family member is sick. They really feel like they know and trust us.
Working with my sister is great. She takes good care of me, and I take good care of her. We're two different personalities, but we're able to bounce ideas off each other.
John Sawyer Austin, Michele's son, who's 8, works here with us on Saturdays. I always bring candy on the weekend because there are a lot of families. He loads up with the candy and passes it out!
• You must see some interesting items come into your store. What are some of the more unique items you've come across?
Well, there's a blue enamel pot out there right now that's about two feet tall. It has a lid and holes in the bottom, and we have no idea what it's for! When we don't know much about a piece's history or its value, we'll do research online. We've had all sorts of fun things come in, though. We've got an old hand-wash ringer out there right now. You never know what you're going to find! But I love the history of these things. I love being on the dock when a whole box of old stuff comes in and you think, "Aunt Mae had one of those," and it brings back such good memories. These things belonged to somebody once, and they treasured them.
Here, we can help them live on.
What's in a Name?
The whole family collaborated to help name Repeat Street, which they chose because of its catchy ring and implication of recycling and re-use of clothing, textiles and furniture.
• Repeat Street does not accept:
Electronics and appliances, CDs/DVDs, pots and pans, unframed prints, bean bags, children's clothing, watches that don't work, etc. If it didn't move at your garage sale, don't bring it to them.
• But welcomes:
Unique vintage/antique or contemporary home accessories and furniture, men's and women's clothing, costume jewelry and framed artwork.
For more items, visit http://www.repeatstreet.net/how-to-consign. Repeat Street is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays.