This week’s Meet a Mom is Ellen Atkinson from Consigned Designs, a luxury consignment shop that’s a bit of a hidden gem in downtown Greenwich! Located at 115 Mason Street, Consigned Designs has two gorgeous adjacent spaces and plenty of parking. The main shop is a curated selection of designer brands like Tory Burch, Alice + Olivia and Theory, all beautifully arranged by color and style. The second space features the most exclusive designers like Chanel, Celine and Gucci (also highlighted on their website). We spoke to Ellen about the unexpected turn their family’s life took more than 15 years ago that lead to her taking over Consigned Designs, what she loves about being a small business owner in Greenwich, and more.
Can you please share a bit about yourself and your life in Greenwich?
I moved to Greenwich when I was in 7th grade, back in the 70s, and grew up in Old Greenwich. I went to Eastern and then graduated from Greenwich High. I met my husband when I was a teacher in Vancouver, when I was 22. My parents wanted me home; my dad offered my husband a job to leave Vancouver and move to Greenwich, and he worked in New York City while I raised six boys. They all went through the Greenwich Public Schools and are now 26, 29, 32, 33 and 35, and my step son is 40.
When and why did you buy Consigned Designs from the original owner?
It was 2004 and I was staying home with my boys, who were young at the time. My husband was working for a hedge fund, and one day the FBI came into the hedge fund and closed it down. Overnight, he lost his job completely. Not only his income but medical, insurance—he lost everything financially. It was a really scary time for us. The three owners of the hedge fund all went to prison. Even though my husband wasn’t involved and he helped the FBI in the coming months, he had a black mark over his head; no one was going to hire someone who was at a company that was shut down. For a full year we were in a state of shock. One day my friend said Ellen, I have a friend who has a consignment store who wants someone to take it over. It wasn’t 24 hours and I went to Consign it (which was the parent company of Consigned Designs, which also included antiques). I started working with her and within a week I told her I wanted to buy it. She sold it to me for pennies and it was the best thing that could have happened to us! It got us back on our feet.
That’s amazing. Where do you find these beautiful items? Everything is in such fantastic condition…
My clothing and accessories come from women who walk into my store and ask if I can sell their items—I don’t buy anything. Every day it’s different. They might have ten items and I choose two. They pick up items if unsold after 60 days or I keep it and it gets donated.
How does your store compare to an e-commerce megastore like The RealReal?
I wouldn’t say I’m competing with stores The RealReal. I’m different; I cannot compete with their volume but I’m always there—I can answer any questions right on the spot. Some customers will go and try The RealReal but they’ve come back because they can talk to me and walk in my store.
Speaking of your store, your space is huge and so welcoming. What do you love most about it?
I have two huge doors in front that most of the year I keep open and it feels like we’re outside. There’s free parking. I lease the building next to me, too, for a second space that has our highest luxury items that we also put on our website. My son Stephen has developed our website for us as well as our social media. Leslie, another member of our team who has been with me for 10 years, does our displays and styling. She is magnificent.
How has the Greenwich community been integral to your business?
I grew up here and it’s always been about word of mouth. I haven’t done a ton of advertising, and I have a huge list of women coming not only from Fairfield County but also Westchester and New York City. People share that they’ve been able to make money by selling clothes through me and it’s easy.
This story is sponsored by Consigned Designs. To learn more, visit Ellen at 115 Mason Street in downtown Greenwich, call 203-869-2165, email [email protected]. You can also follow them on Instagram @consigneddesigns.