2014-08-29 / Business Review

Treasures abound at Heirloom Consignment

Almost no one is more surprised at how Heirloom Consignment has taken off than its owner, Michelle Raymond.

Located at 161 Ocean St. in South Portland, the shop opened in early April with just a few pieces Raymond had acquired at auction. It was just enough to get the business started until consignments started to come in, and those few pieces hardly filled the 4,000-square-foot shop.

“It was laughable,” says Raymond, with a laugh of her own. “When I look at the pictures, I can’t imagine why people didn’t come in and laugh in our face, because it was like a bowling alley in here.”

But come they did, and they kept on coming, bringing items to sell of every style and description, from dishes to daybeds, from artwork to accessories, and everything in between. Today, Raymond’s store is so full she’s considering adding on warehouse space to hold the overflow.

“We’ve been so busy. We’re way ahead of where we hoped to be after the first year, and we’ve only been open five months,” says Raymond. “It’s been very successful.”

Part of the draw might be Raymond’s eye for design. An interior decorator with more than 30 years experience, mentored for nearly 11 of those years by an interior designer out of the University of Chicago, Raymond is able to pick out items that impress, and display them for maximum effect.

“People have very beautiful things. They don’t even know how beautiful their things are,” she says. “It’s just a matter of being able to see it. That’s where my background comes in. An item can be anything, from any decade up to new, it just has to be something that people would want to have in their homes.” Raymond does turn away some offers. For example, she rarely accepts clothing, while books are often taken with consideration as design props, rather than as reading material. Housewares and tools, too, tend to be items that can be put on display in ways beyond their utilitarian value. But otherwise, almost anything can be found at Heirloom Consignment.

“Literally, things change daily,” says Raymond. “It’s like Christmas in here every day.

“Surprisingly enough, you might think that antiques would be the majority of the business, but it is not,” she says. “It seems that since the economy has turned around people’s tastes have changed. Antiques are in a really, really down period.”

Raymond, who follows more than 300 design blogs, is always trying to stay on top of trends, with her finger on the pulse of what people are going to be asking for. Interestingly, she says, ordinary bookcases are one thing she can’t get enough of, and seem to keep in stock at the moment.

All items taken by Raymond are subject to a 90-day contract. She works with the owner to set a fair value on the item, sometimes surprising an owner who had no idea much a hand-me-down knick-knack might be worth. If an item has not sold after 30 days, the price drops 20 percent. If still unsold after 60 days, the price drops another 30 percent. Whatever dollar amount is realized, Raymond and the owner split the take 50/50. Items that do not sell after the contract period are returned to the owner or, if unwanted, donated to charity.

“That doesn’t mean the item can’t be re-consigned at a later date,” says Raymond, “but we want the inventory to be constantly turning over, we want everything to be fresh every 90 days.”

Every trip to Heirloom Consignment reveals something new, at least among items for sale. But many customers have become familiar faces, returning again and again to see what’s come in since their last visit, or to check if a desired item is still available after a scheduled price drop — all items are tagged with the arrival date and the dates when its price will be slashed. “I really feel that what I offer besides my expertise is my ethics,” says Raymond. “I’m trying to make as much money for the consigner as I am trying to give a great deal to the buyers.”

Heirloom Consignment is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday,and until 4 p.m.on Sundays.Many items are posted to the store’s website, www.HeirloomConsignmentME. com. Anyone interested in consigning a larger item, including furniture, can send photos to Raymond by emailing michelle@ HeirloomConsignmentME.com

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