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March 24, 2012

Shop Talk : Consignment closet

Consignment Closet 3200 Chestnut St., Oneonta Owner: Susan Tannenbaum Established: Oct. 10, 2010 Employees: 2.5

Daily Star

---- — Consignment Closet

Address: 3200 Chestnut St., Oneonta

Phone/website: (607) 431-9675,

Owner: Susan Tannenbaum

Established: Oct. 10, 2010

Employees: 2.5

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Susan Tannenbaum, owner of Consignment Closet in Oneonta.

How long have you lived in the area?

It will be 30 years ago in August. ... We moved for a job. Jordan (Tannenbaum's husband) had done his training in L.A., and we wanted to move back East closer to our families, in New Hampshire and Manhattan. We were starting our family and wanted to be able to see the grandparents and have them involved in the kids' lives, and we were looking at somewhere halfway between the two. We walked into Oneonta, and it just felt like home. It had a really nice feeling. Everyone we met we really liked, and we started here.

Tell me about your business:

We still had Piecework in 2010, and we split the store in two and started the consignment business. And that really kept growing. There was a demand for more. When we decided to bring Piecework back into a mail order situation, and we took the whole entire space to expand the Consignment Closet, and it filled up. It's been wonderful. It's just continued to grow.

How did you get started in this line of work?

I think a lot of people in this area frequent consignment shops, and certainly I was one of them. So when we were trying to think of what we wanted to do beside Piecework (Tannenbaum's fabric business), that just seemed to be a natural transition, especially with the way the economy was flowing at that point. It seemed like a nice business to go into that was going to be an asset to the community, especially on the West End, where there isn't a lot of shopping.

We figured we would try it with half the store and see what happened. And we were just amazed with the response. It was a natural transition to grow it when we decided to put Piecework back into mail order. That was in the end of October. So, a year after we opened (Consignment Closet), we expanded.

What is the most enjoyable part of what you do?

Well, it certainly is exciting every day. You never know what you're going to open when you pick up the next bag. People bring in a large variety of things. It's always interesting. It's a challenge, but it's a fun challenge to put things together, to put displays together so there's always something interesting when you first walk in the door, and that it changes frequently.

I enjoy the customers. I enjoy the consignors. They're not always the same person. You have a customer base. You have a consignor base.

It's so low stress, which is nice. It's a big plus. People come in, and they're looking for a bargain or a particular item. It's pleasant. It's fun. And it's nice to see the regulars come in. I don't have to worry about what to purchase to sell in the store. "OK, you brought that in. That's great. Let's put it out and see if it sells."

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

This is a great business because it's a win-win situation for the consignor and the consumer. That works really well. The biggest challenge is to make sure there's a variety, and I think you have a variety when you welcome everybody through your door. We don't stick to specific brands or items. We'll carry Walmart through designer clothes, and I think that helps.

We try to keep the prices very reasonable. We want to make sure people don't have to go outside of Oneonta to shop and get what they need.

This is a nice community, and I think one of the challenges in the past, especially when the kids were growing up, there were times when you did have to go outside the area, and it really bothered me. I was a firm believer in really trying to shop locally. You just want to make sure people have the opportunity to stay and live and work here. It's such a great place to raise a family. It's a small town feel, but there's a lot of opportunity here.

You want to keep that positive energy flowing. I'm so thankful for being able to raise my kids here. It's fantastic. It's easy to think you're missing something, but it's also important to realize what you have.

This community pulls together when times are tough, and they are there. You don't get that everywhere. You know your neighbors. You can say, "Hi." There are a lot of pluses. It's been a good 30 years.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

I think the biggest thing you have to have is very good organizational skills. I think that you have to define the kind of consignment store you're going to have, because every store does have a different flavor and a different style. We kind of wanted to be like a general store of a consignment business, a family store. It's a fun business to be in. As any business is, it's a lot of work. It takes a lot of work to make things look easy. It's a very rewarding business. I like that fact that it's helping people. That was part of my goal, that is would be positive in different aspects to a wide range of people.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Cassandra Miller. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 255, or email