Willits is becoming consignment central | AspenTimes.com

Willits is becoming consignment central

Scott Condon The Aspen Times

BASALT – Willits Town Center’s rise in prominence as a shopping district continued to evolve last week with the opening of two consignment stores that have been fixtures in other towns.

Susie’s at Willits Ltd. had its grand opening Thursday evening after ramping up operations over the past three weeks. Encore Connections opened Monday.

Susie’s owner Susan Harvey said she has been looking at opening a store in Willits Town Center since the summer of 2009. She has operated a consignment business of the same name in Aspen for 23 years and is maintaining a presence there.

She suffered severe injuries in a car accident in August 2009 and had to put her ambitions on hold, but the space she has leased for more than two decades on East Hopkins Avenue in Aspen sold and forced her hand. She started looking in Willits Town Center in Basalt in August.

“Whole Foods was just starting, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be good,'” Harvey said.

She vacated her Hopkins space this spring and opened a small shop in Aspen in the Concept 600 building on Main Street. She sells only men and women’s clothes there. She leased a 2,000-square-foot corner spot in Willits just a little more than a block from Whole Foods. Susie’s is at the intersection of Reed and Robinson streets. It’s hard to miss, with big, blue awnings.

“I thought this was going to be tough to get going. It’s been a piece of cake,” she said.

On the other hand, she felt that after 23 years of business in Aspen, her customers would realize that she just changed locations and they would find her with no problem. That hasn’t worked as planned yet.

“We only moved 220 steps from our old front door,” she said.

All the consigned goods – including furniture, housewares, china, accessories and jewelry – were moved from Aspen to Willits in mid-March. Only the clothing stayed in Aspen. Susie’s collected additional consignments to fill its Willits space. Harvey planned to accept merchandise for a while before opening, but buyers kept coming in before the “official” opening.

“We kind of had a drizzling opening,” she said.

She makes the best of her space. She hung pipe racks from the ceiling, which, in turn, allow her to hang chairs and other merchandise from the pipes for more effective display.

Harvey said she is confident that Susie’s at Willits will be successful in its new space because so many customers have moved from Aspen to the midvalley over the years. There is more year-round business in the midvalley rather than the seasonal business so prevalent in Aspen.

She estimated that half of her customers at Willits also shopped at Susie’s in Aspen. The move also has netted new customers, both consignment sellers and buyers. That bodes well for the shop. Sales were flat in 2009 and 2010 despite perceptions by people outside the business that all consignment stores were going great guns during the recession.

“People weren’t spending so much,” she said.

Sales picked up in 2011 but were flat again in 2012. Despite the business cycles, one factor remains constant.

“People are looking for beautiful things at affordable prices,” Harvey said.

Harvey said she has one customer who walked through her door 23 years ago. The woman doesn’t need to shop at a secondhand store, but she loves to look. She comes to Willits even though she lives in the upper valley.

“She loves the hunt,” Harvey said.

And for the hunters, there are now two quality consignment stores within a quarter-mile of each other. Shauna Hembel relocated Encore Connection to Willits after she outgrew the space in Carbondale where she was for 21⁄2 years.

Both Hembel and Harvey said they believe it’s better for business for two consignment stores to be located so close to one another. There’s more allure for shoppers.

“Consignment shoppers are extremely loyal,” Hembel said.

She was interested in opening a store in Willits for some time, convinced that it will become a shopping hub in the valley.

“This is the destination place,” she said. “Everybody seems to have a really good vibe about (Willits).”

The opportunity arose when Willits Wine and Spirits moved out of its space near Willits General Store and reopened as Four Dogs Fine Wine and Spirits beside Whole Foods Market. She is leasing 2,400 square feet, significantly more than the 1,400 square feet she had in Carbondale.

Encore consigns furniture, clothes, accessories and home-decor items. A lot of the furniture is from homeowners who rotate out sofas, chairs, dining tables and the like on a regular basis. Hembel said she gets items from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Some sellers even journeyed over from Vail. Most of the merchandise looks new. Hembel’s background is in interior design so her store features prominent displays of the furniture.

“I wanted it to look like a showroom,” Hembel said, adding that it shows that consignment merchandise can be quality stuff. “I’ve always been choosy about the things I accept.”


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