There's a thriving new business in downtown Fort Dodge. In March, Peggy Lowrey and Melanie Raines, who said they've been friends most of their lives, partnered to open Treasures in the Attic at 500 Central Ave. - the corner of Central Avenue and North Fifth Street, facing Central Square. They set out to create a consignment store that would meet what Raines said was a partially unmet local need.
"We're a consignment store, I would say a consignment boutique," she explained. "We're a little bit different than the other consignment stores. We don't really carry clothes. The only clothes we carry are kids' clothes. We're more home decor, collectibles, antiques. It's a little bit of an antique store, gift shop, consignment store all built into one."
Raines said the ambience at Treasures in the Attic is part of what sets in apart from a routine store that features previously owned goods.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Treasures in the Attic co-owner Melanie Raines, left, and Peggy Lowrey pose in one room of their store located at 500 Central Ave. in downtown Fort Dodge.
"We try to be a step up from a thrift store," she said. "They come in and it smells good. ... Usually, you go into stores like these and they smell musty. (We feature) decorating instead of throwing everything on a shelf. We try to put it where people can envision what it would look like in their house."
The range of products in the store's six rooms keeps changing and typically includes both consignment items and selections the owners have acquired at auctions and sales.
"We like going to auctions," Raines said. "That's my background. I moved here from Virginia. I owned an auction house out there. So we still go to auctions and yard sales and stuff like that, estate sales, and try to pick some stuff up that way."
Most of the stock, however, is obtained from individuals who consign things they wish to sell.
"Most of the time, people come in and look around and they ask if we take things," Raines said. "We keep it simple. ... The customer gets 60 percent. We keep 40 percent. ... We ask them to call, but we're easy to get along with. ... I would say 95 percent of the people just bring it in. If it's something big, they'll bring us a picture to see if it's something we want. ... We try selling it for them for 60 days. Then at the end of 60 days they can either ... pick it up or we just put it half off and work on getting it out of here quick."
Raines said pricing items is the key to achieving a sale.
"Everybody is different," she said. "Some people, they've got certain prices they want put on stuff. We'll try to work with them. Other people, they just want to get rid it. They just tell us to put prices on it for them."
Raines stressed that she and Lowrey provide advice to clients concerning appropriate pricing and do research as necessary in that process. She said her background in the auction business helps her appraise items quickly and provide expert counsel to clients.
A new venture
The decision to launch Treasures in the Attic occurred soon after Raines moved back to her old hometown in June 2010. She said she and Lowery decided a commercial collaboration made sense because they have compatible interests and talents.
"When I moved back, I knew I wanted to do something," Raines said. "I'd always been an entrepreneur. ... She'd always wanted to have a business like this. She's really good at decorating. She's got the decorating eye. That's what works. We like different things."
That flare for decorating and display is one of the standout features of Treasures in the Attic.
"If you come back in here in a month, the store will look completely different," Raines said. "We probably reorganize and redecorate every couple of weeks. People like that. They come in and if it looks different, they're going to look through the whole store instead of walking in and saying 'Oh, it's the same old stuff,' and walk right back out the door."
The slow economy was another factor that led Lowrey and Raines to conclude this is a good time to establish a business of this type.
"More and more people are coming to stores like this because they can't afford to buy retail," Raines said.
She said the keys to success in this type of business include rotating inventory frequently, marketing savvy and appropriate people skills.
"A lot of it is just building relationships with your customers and offering things for prices that people can afford," Raines said. "If you overprice everything, you can't really get rid of it."
Repeat business is also part of the equation.
"We've got a lot of customers that come in at least once a week just to see what new things we have," Raines said. "We get new stuff in every day."
Treasures in the Attic is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Payment can be by check or credit card. On Wednesdays, the store has a 10 percent discount for seniors (defined as people age 55 or older). Immediately on the horizon is a holiday-themed open house that will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday.
Raines said she and her partner invite anyone who hasn't visited Treasures in the Attic to do so because she is certain the uninitiated will discover what regular customers already know.
"We've got something for everyone," she said. "It would be hard to come in and not find a single thing - whether you're a guy or a girl, young or old - we have such a big selection. We try to set ourselves apart from everybody else by having so many different kinds of things. Not limiting ourselves ... affordable prices."
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org