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Business Spotlight: The Bargainista

The owner just sold one of her favorite items: A pair of Vintage Gucci patent leather boots for $400. She said the buyer spotted them through the window—which was mainly covered up—before the store even opened for business.

Welcome back to Southeast-Brewster Patch's (SBP) business feature. We recently sat down and chatted about business with Donna Milano (DM), owner of The Bargainista Consignment Re-Sale Shop. The Southeast store, which is located on Route 22 near Sciortino's Restaurant, has been open for about a month.

Patch: What would you say about the consignment business, for folks who are unfamiliar?

DM: If you have items to sell—they don't have to be new, they can be gently used or vintage—I will price them accordingly, based on my seven years of selling experience on eBay. Unless there's something you want to sell, and you know you want to get $50 in your hand, I will price it accordingly to make sure you get it. Doesn't necessarily mean that's going to happen. I'll do what you want, but then after 45 days, if the item doesn't sell, then however it's been priced will be reduced by 50 percent. It stays on the floor for another 45 days, and after that, if it doesn't sell ... you will either come pick up your item or I will donate it to the Veterans of America. I have them here pretty much every week.

Patch: Are all of the items in the store consignment pieces?

DM: I would say most of them are. Probably about 75 percent.

Patch: So most of the time, you're working with other people to sell the items; you take a percentage and they keep a percentage?

DM: Correct

Patch: How did you get into this?

DM: We were moving from Harsdale to here. I had a number of items in the house that I never reallly touched, used. So I said "You know what? Let me try this." So I got rid of a lot of items before we moved and once we moved here I still had items I wanted to get rid of, so I continued to do it. And I started to say, "Hey, I've been able to get rid of stuff on eBay," and people are like, "Can you sell something for me?" Then I was like "You know what? I could probably make some money."

I had, when I moved into the store, I took 1,000 peices of clothing out of my house, because I was working from the house, so it became overwhelming. I couldn't do it anymore from the house, because each piece for eBay, you have to look at it, photograph it, measure it, write it up. And some of the pieces are just not worth it. You may have something that's brand new for $5 or $6, but the buyer has to pay shipping, so it's really not worth it. So there are things that will do better here and there are things that will certainly do better on eBay.

Patch: What's your username on eBay?

DM: It's FrazierPhil. And I've sold well over 1,200 items on eBay, and I have 100 percent feedback.

Patch: When you first started selling items online, did you think it would lead to a business?

DM: No, never. I love doing it. I love going through the bags and finding things. And I love when someone says "Oh, just get rid of this," and they don't even know what it is, and I can tell them "Wow, do you know what you have here?" I don't know everything, so if it's something I don't know, I will check on eBay, or I'll Google it. But I can pretty much price the clothing with my eyes closed at this point.

Patch: What is your competition like in this area?

DM: There isn't much. I think there's only the thrift shop, which is very different. I don't want you to have to elbow your way through the racks and racks of clothes, and basically if you were to purchase something here, you could wear it and walk out the door. [What sets us apart] is, I would guess, the quality of the merchandise I'm willing to accept. And it doesn't have to be expensive. It's just, the way it's been maintained. The only time I will take something with a flaw, like that [Chloé] pocketbook above your head, it was a $2,000 pocketbook and it's marked for $300. The owner got ketchup on the zipper part. I won't attempt to clean it, and I'm sure if you went to a shoe repair place or something, they could do it. If you paid $100, you got a great bag.

Patch: What's the range of merchandise like in the store?

DM: It's mostly clothing, shoes, handbags, some jewelry. Women's, men's and children's. There's stuff for $1, and it goes up to about $1,000. So there's everything inbetween, new, gently used vintage in that price range.

Patch: You're a North Salem resident, so why did you pick this location? And how's business been so far?

DM: I like the location for the car traffic and foot traffic. I just felt that Brewster had a wide range of clientele, because I'm not catering to one specific income. I didn't want something that was too far from my house, and I wanted something with reasonable rent. And the landlord's great.

The first week I opened was very good, but due to the weather [Hurricane Sandy] it kind of slowed down. But the people that have come in here, the comments, are: It's very pretty, it smells lovely, it's not all crowded, it's neat and clean, so people have had favorable responses to the way it looks and what I have ... I've done really well in the short time I've been here. And when it's quiet, I continue to do the eBay.

Patch: What would you say to someone who's never been to a consignment shop?

DM: Why pay retail? And support the small businesses. I think some people have this negative idea of a consignment shop; you're going in, you're getting someone's old, used item. That's not the case.

Patch: Do you ever turn down items?

DM: Absolutely. Broken or missing buttons, broken or missing zipper, stains, tears, rips, anything that may have pet hair or an odor. Like I said, I like you to be able to purchase the item, and if you wanted to put it on and leave, you could.

Patch: What sorts of challenges you faced so far?

DM: The challenges, I keep rearranging. I sit here and I look and I want something else there. I just want to make sure I have enough stuff for everybody in every size, which I think I do. I think more of the challenge is balancing this with my three kids. 

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