New Town, New Opportunities

Three years ago, Deborah Sullivan moved from Atlanta to Greenville to care for her ailing mother. She had been a hair stylist for more than 40 years, with a popular and successful salon in Atlanta that she sold before the move. When she got to Greenville, she found a space to open a salon, but it turned out that opening for business in South Carolina wasn’t so simple. Although she was a licensed beautician in three states, South Carolina required her to get more schooling to be licensed here. So she decided to make a change.

She already had the space, so why not use it for something else? “My mother always loved holding yard sales, so I just decided to bring the yard sale inside,” she says, and she opened a consignment store, Consign Werks.

Within a year, her 1400-square foot store was bursting at the seams. “It was at the point where I had to either move or go out of business,” Deborah says. She found out about the IDA program at CommunityWorks and used that to enable her to move to a larger space across the street, where the store is currently located at 1440 Laurens Rd.

It’s a much larger space—about 5,000 square feet on two levels—but in the year and a half since she moved into the new building, only half of the space, the upper level, has been utilized. When she ran out of money to renovate the lower level, she returned to CommunityWorks for a small business loan.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to have some savings that kept us afloat because I was hanging on by my fingernails, but now we’re stable and on to the next phase.”

Once the lower level is finished, Deborah hopes to use it for customized vendor space, where her consigners could have a dedicated area for their items. She also plans to use it for furniture painting classes, which are already offered once a month—but there is more room downstairs.

While the shop is purely a consignment shop (aside from the classes), if items don’t sell, sellers have the option of taking them back or donating them. This has allowed Deborah to carry out a philanthropic mission in addition to maintaining her business. By partnering with the Department of Social Services through the SC JUMMP Program, Consign Werks assists women in times of crisis by donating appropriate clothing for women to wear to job interviews.

It’s a business, yes, but Deborah says, “I like to think that we’re helping community members to streamline and downsize.” And if someone can give new life to an item that’s not needed by its previous owner, it keeps things out of the landfill. “It’s really about ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’” she says.