Lynda Peters, who owns Consignors on Main Street in East Greenwich, has long appreciated the concept of discovering bargains at non-retail rates.
Growing up an “Air Force brat” – the eldest of nine children – she recalls, “My mother shopped like this [at thrift shops] since we were born. She could find good quality without the high prices; resale at a fraction of retail.”
Lynda is also a realtor, a profession she entered in San Jose, California in 1975. She moved to Rhode Island 26 years ago because her ex-husband is from the East Coast. The mother of two and grandmother of four, she is deeply involved in her community, particularly the outreach work of Christ Church, where she is a member.
She can attest there has never been a hotter time for consignment shopping than now.
As the bad economy nudges people to part with clothing, furniture and accessories to earn extra money, buyers are equally eager to acquire things they need but can’t afford at the mall.
A veteran publisher of magazines, newspapers and direct mailing fliers, Lynda has created a Rhode Island guide to give people ideas of how to accomplish this most basic of recycling.
For the third year, she has compiled a booklet listing dozens of consignment shops throughout the state, grouped by geographical area. East Greenwich, Coventry, West Warwick and North Kingstown are heavily represented.
It is called the “ReShopper” which, she explains, stands for “recycling and repurposing.” Besides providing details about consignment stores, the booklet includes articles offering advice on saving energy, conserving natural resources and mixing older furniture items with contemporary pieces to become savvy with a popular home-decorating trend.
“Besides being a benefit to the shops, we have a really good purpose in mind,” Lynda says. “We talk about painting things, repairing. The message is ‘Think green! Save money!’”
The publication’s credit is given to Two Green Chicks who are, in fact, Lynda – who provided the concept and editorial contents – and Karen Senerchia, a graphics designer.
The idea of starting a consignment business, Lynda notes, came from her mother’s sensible shopping philosophy as well as her own purchases. “Being a realtor, I was visiting consignment stores and buying used furniture to ‘stage’ my listings and my income properties.”
As the real estate market began to slow, Lynda jumped into consigning. The first Consignors was located on Frenchtown Road for three years and, while it built a devoted following, the store’s location prevented casual walk-in shopping. Cars were whizzing past as they headed for the I-95 ramp.
Relocating to Main Street just over a year ago, in the space formerly occupied by Brown’s dry cleaners, was “the best thing I could have done,” she says. “There’s so much energy downtown; things are always busy. I’m rarely here five minutes without someone [coming into] my store.”
A feature of Consignors – as well as most of the state’s thrift-shop operations – is a warm, inviting atmosphere where visitors receive attention and often are regaled with accounts of the provenance of various items of furniture and jewelry.
“With department stores,” Lynda states, “customer service has gone out the window. We love chatting with our customers; they become friends. This time of year, we’ve had people in Christmas shopping. One lady spent a lot of money in my shop and said, ‘I am doing all my shopping at these small stores.’”
She says a typical browser comes in with the notion “I know I can find something unusual.”
Lynda believes the uniqueness of items in shops like hers is another attraction.
“We have quality furniture that includes antiques, retro, pieces from a number of eras. I don’t carry pressed wood; it’s the real thing.” Clothing, all top-quality labels, is marked down 75 percent off the original; shoes and handbags are also deeply discounted.
“The jewelry is my passion. I appreciate the antique, vintage items – the nicer, heftier pieces. Some of this jewelry has wonderful stories. We have styles not found today.”
Inherited, unwanted things are especially dear. “It’s in grandma’s jewelry box and we inherit it.”
One longtime, elderly consignor often occupies a seat of honor from which she entertains customers with recollections of her salad days in New York City when she attended all the fashionable openings and was a personal friend of top jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane.
Because her children aren’t interested, she is slowly consigning a lifetime’s collection of his rare early pieces as well as Chanel scarves and other high-end accessories. She’s famous for helping shoppers assemble outfits that are always chic and tasteful with a hint of pizzazz.
Lynda promises that the ReShopper will be out well before Christmas. It is carried by the East Greenwich and North Kingstown chambers of commerce as well as consignment stores and many professional offices.
Historically, the free guidebook is a popular publication.
“I’ve had people from Connecticut walk into my store with these things,” she says.
To learn more about ReShopper and its distribution locations, call 885-7283.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .