INSIDE: Ever wondered what it would be like to open a thrift store? I did, so I did a little research. Here, you’ll learn what you need to get started, tips on where to get merchandise, and more.
The last few weeks I’ve been thinking a LOT about opening up my own antique/thrift store some time in the near future. I don’t know what’s been getting into me lately (I think this baby not coming out is driving me crazy!), but at this moment I’m totally and utterly OBSESSED with figuring out how it all works. Even though I’m 99.9% sure I wouldn’t be good at it ;)
It all started the other week when we went to the beach. We drove by this awesomely old house for sale in this quaint little town, and on the property right next to it was a barn converted into some sort of antique shop. I thought to myself, “How bad ass would THAT be? Own an old home in the countryside and then set up shop 10 feet away with your own store? That would be tight!” I even came up with a mental list of all the reasons why I should do it.
Pros to Owning Your Own Thrift Store
- It would be FUN!
- I’d get first dibs on all the best deals out there
- I’d never know what kind of treasures I’d find in any day
- I could sell all my own stuff SUPER easier and faster ;)
- It’s a fun adventure and a dream to cross off the list.
- I’d get proficient in a totally new business.
- I’d learn the ins and outs of selling stuff online, like on eBay (which I’d do concurrently from selling in the physical store)
- I’d meet an entirely NEW set of people! (Buyers, auctioneers, collectors – an entire community)
- I’d make a lot of money! Probably not as much as I’d want, but enough to make it worth it.
I didn’t think about it too much following the trip, but every weekend that passed got me thinking again. I’d been going to yard sales and flea markets like CRAZY lately, and every time I stepped into one of them the idea of owning my own shop would pop right back into memory again. Especially this last Friday when I came across some killer deals at our local thrift store. I had no need to pick any of them up for myself (one being a 1948 old Singer sewing machine w/ table in perfect condition!), but I kept thinking that if I had my own shop I could totally scoop ’em up and then double – or even triple – the price to flip a profit! And it would be exhilarating finding all those bargains too!
The next morning I set out again to hit up my routine flea markets and yard sales I’d pass along the way, except this time I pretended I already had my own place :) I learned that if I did that sometimes, I can get a better sense of what it would be like “in the real world” if I were to ever really pursue the dream. Kinda like how I did before blogging full-time: I’d wake up some work days and pretend all I had to do that day was blog and keep up with the business to gauge how I’d truly feel about it. If I got excited right off the bat, I’d know it was a dream worth fighting for! And if I instinctively cringed, well, it probably meant that it wasn’t the best of ideas.
Tips on Where to Get Your Merchandise
So I step into the community flea market where about 30 different people have their own square areas to hawk their goods, and the entire time I’m walking around thinking “What should I pick up for my store today?.” Right off the bat I was excited!! It sounds silly, but again – it works. So much so that THIS time I actually say my dreams out loud! haha…
I come across this guy who was selling a few old baseball cards and antiques outside of his van, and we randomly start up a conversation. I had told him it had been years since I’ve collected these kinds of things myself, but I want to “get back into the game” now, and I was kinda sorta thinking of opening up my own shop in the future. Coincidentally enough, he was too! In fact, he’d been collecting stuff like crazy over the past year and a half, and was moving onto the next item on his list of finding that perfect real estate. All at the ripe age of 52 :)
(If you’ve ever seen the movie Larry Crowne, this guy was exactly like the character Cedric the Entertainer played – feisty, boisterous, and had no problem selling you anything and everything he could possibly get his hands on! He was literally selling his kid’s artwork they had made 20 years when they were 5 :) Only this guy didn’t set up shop on his front lawn all year long like in the movies.)
Anyways, we got along swimmingly the second we started chatting and I quickly picked his brain on how he got to this point (and what he actually *does* on a daily basis) to see if it’s something I’d indeed enjoy doing. Right there in the sweltering 97 degree heat at 8:30 in the morning. This is what he shared with me:
- He hits up all local auctions
- He hits up as many yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores as he can (buying and selling)
- He participates in all storage auctions around town (just like in Storage Wars!!)
- He partners up with other dealers looking for certain items and then goes searching for them
- He researches all values online, and then compares them to things up for sale on eBay to get a better idea on how much they’re worth on the free market
- And he tells everyone to come to him FIRST when they’re looking to sell something – even if they think it’s crap – because there’s a good chance he could find a buyer for it.
So pretty much he shops all week to get enough inventory going, all the while grabbing the best deals before any others can get to them. A lot of work requiring a lot of time. Regardless, this guy knew what he was doing and unknowingly became my official role model ;) We exchanged names and info at the end of our convo, and I promised him I’d return the favor sometime down the road. I asked him for one last tip before we exchanged info and went our separate ways, and he quickly shot back: not starting sooner. The answer you usually get when you know you’re on the right track with something :)
Open a Thrift Store: What You Need To Get Started
Now, I’m in a totally different place than this guy who’s officially retired and running his business halfway to keep busy and halfway to strike it rich, BUT, it also doesn’t seem that far fetched either. As long as you were committed to it and willing to put in the hours it would take to make it fully successful. Well, that and having some good business sense :) But I’d like to think I’m somewhat above average in that department with my track record?
Either way, as soon as I got home from the flea market I jumped on the computer and started doing more research. In particular, I Googled “how to start a thrift store” to see what that would result. And BOY did it stop me in my tracks! Here were a few of the things that I hadn’t really considered yet, even though they totally make sense:
- You need a business plan
- You need a license for the business, and probably insurance too
- You need to find a location visible to both foot AND car traffic, which is also affordable!
- You need adequate parking, as well as signage
- You have to figure out how to market your store properly
- And how to keep track of all that inventory
- Along with systems for bookkeeping and accepting money
- And of course, shelving and other display case stuff to showcase all your goodies
Reading all that pretty much sealed the deal for me. I don’t know anything about owning retail shops, what the hell am I thinking?? Just because I can run things online doesn’t mean it would necessarily transfer over into the “real world.” And what about my hatred for owning property? Or wanting to be more minimalist? Haha… It’s amazing how things change the moment you start getting more serious and do a little research.
Alternatives to Starting a Shop From Scratch
I called up my mom shortly there after and asked her what SHE thought of this whole idea. After all, it’s because of her that I love this kinda stuff! We grew up yard saling and going to local auctions every single weekend. Plus, she actually has experience selling stuff in stores too – doing it on and off while we were in school to make some extra money.
She loved the idea as much as I did, but offered a little more insight:
- If I was out looking for good deals and buying stuff all the time, who would run the store?
- And what happens if I can’t pay rent or the mortgage?
- Have I ever thought of partnering up with anyone?
- What about buying a store already in business?
- What if I started out flipping things on eBay instead first?
- Or putting things on consignment at an already established shop?
- Or even renting out a booth at the stores that offer that kind of partnership?
All great things to consider for sure, and it pretty much cemented the fact that I should NOT be trying at all to start a store from scratch. Especially since I haven’t dipped my toes outside of doing a little shopping here and there (or again, having ANY experience whatsoever managing a retail store!). My mom firmly agreed, and told me that if I poured my heart into it and really got a better understanding of it all, she’d consider partnering up with me in the future and running it together as a family store :) That made me happy. Even if she’s assuming I’d never make it to that point, haha…
So all of this to say I started thinking of opening up my own antiques/thrift store, but I still have a long way to go if I ever want to make it a reality. As awesome as it sounds, it’s not something you can easily do overnight. So I’ll continue learning and giving it more thought over the next few years as time passes, and in the meantime I’ll keep doing what I know best: finding good deals for myself and dreaming up the next venture :) I already pretend I own my own shop anyways, so at least I’ve got the fun part down!
(Photo by newagecrap, and Deidre Woollard)
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Great article! I’ve always thought about doing that as well for some of the same reasons…mainly because I’d like the thrill of finding deals on things I could flip in the store or being able to sell what people are just going to toss out. It’s kind of like getting paid to recycle people’s stuff.
I hope you get a shop going someday, that’d be sweet!
Why do you need a brick & mortar store to deal in antiques? Use the internet as a virtual store – sell on ebay!
I’d think the two hardest things would be a constant stream of fresh product and being able to move it all (as opposed to holding things you love and ending up on an episode of ‘Hoarders’).
Lastly, it’s a question of knowledge-base about a wide variety of collectibles and antiques.
Scott, My comment is three years late but I’ll add it anyway. You have a very good point. I too felt the same as the writer and I even went college to learn a few management skills at my local college. I actually purchased many, many, many and more…many items. Murano glass, Lenox, Russian items, etc. I have literally become an unintended hoarder while waiting for my shop dreams. Lol. I have every intention to sell the great items I have acquired through the “years” but the government and the always changing tax codes is my fear. What if I mess up with the IRS codes, I fear prison. I fear losing everything. The government is the number one reason why many people don’t own a business.
I think it’s a very interesting idea! I used to work in a clothing thrift store and as you know, my old boss made a TON of money.
I want to know more about their success, Michelle! It’s been on my mind lately to do a clothing one.
If this is something you want to pursue, I think you should do a booth at an antiques store to start out. It’s probably more expensive where you are, but the big antique store in my small hometown rents booths for $50 a month. Every time I go in, I want to start one!
As an aside, I work in another small town now with NOTHING BUT THRIFT STORES. There’s a Walmart, and two local places that sell new clothing opened over the past year or so, but there is not one other place to buy new clothing. And 17 thrift stores at my last count (county population is about 22,000).
Can you tell me where is this town with 17 thrift shops so I can visit to shop thank you
Very interesting idea. As I was reading I keep thinking, “he should try this on ebay first” and low and behold, mom came through with wisdom pearl #5! LOL. I gotta tell you, I know a few people who have managed to turn ebay into their full time gig. It started off with them selling old things of their own, to them finding deals on items and selling those on ebay. I recently wrote an post on 5 businesses you can start for $50 or less and starting an ebay store was one of them. I say go for it!
I come up with crazy ideas to make money and be my own boss constantly. Then I do some research and see what is involved in bringing it to fruition and that is usually where it stops. I do have a couple ideas that I plan on following up on once I am debt free and have enough capital to pull it off.
I actually have thought about a thrift/re-sale store after seeing Storage Wars. The problem with that for me is that there are so many within a 15-20 mile radius that I would have to come up with a unique concept or do something different to stand out and I am not sure what that would be.
I know this is years later, but meeeeee toooooo!
Actually, I am in the process of partnering up and buying an existing thrift store (yay! My dream is coming true, and I’m only 51!!) , but before that I had seriously researched starting up a doggy-do clean up service. Really, it’s up and coming, relatively easy work, and incredibly cheap to start up with a growing need. But I’m super happy that my dream is coming true!
Good for you!!! That sounds so exciting :) You’re going to learn so much and have a ton of fun as well!
I’ve been running a Brick and Mortar resale shop full time for 6 years now and I always laugh when I hear people say “I’D LOVE TO DO THAT! IT MUST BE SO MUCH FUN!!!”
Funny how little people know about things until they ACTUALLY do them. We as people typically have our thoughts or opinions about things, but it’s not until you’re elbow deep into something before all the reality and demands of it becomes clear.
My business is BY FAR the hardest, most demanding, most time consuming job I’ve EVER had; not to mention the 6 day work week, constant stress, and sleepless nights during slow times.Oh, and for you dreamers out there, 7 out of every 10 people that enter our store suffers from some form of mental illness. NO. I’M NOT KIDDING.
So, you get to deal with that on a daily basis as well.
Our business model is that we stock our store ONLY through storage unit auction finds. Yes, like the show.
We have to find it, buy it, load it, haul it, unload it, store it, sort it, test it, clean it, research it, price it, display it, THEN, FINALLY… sell it. Usually with some DOPE asking “The price is $100? would you take $50 for it? (PLEASE RE-READ THE LIST ABOVE OF WHAT WAS DONE TO FINALLY GET ITEMS READY FOR SALE).
We have a very nice and organized shop of the best merchandise we can find. The public doesn’t know or, TO BE HONEST CARE, all that goes into creating and maintaining a Brick & Mortar retail Business. They just want it for less, no matter what it is.
Then there’s all the genius’s that ASSUME all your stuff is donated, so of course everything should be SUPER CHEAP, right?
We do, however, do pretty well on the whole, but a full 25-30% of our sales are through EBAY or secondary market internet sites ie; Craigslist etc, because the foot traffic for retail businesses has evaporated to such a degree in modern society, that it’s nearly impossible to sustain yourself without supplementary avenues of sales. Just check out your local mall if you want a first hand glimpse.
You better have a VERY good business sense, be EXCELLENT with your numbers (overhead vs, margins ), and be familiar with small business licensing, state laws, and employees.
PLUS REMEMBER, YOU’VE GOT TO PAY YOUR TAXES, CAPONE!!!!
STATE QUARTERLY, AND FEDERAL YEAR END, AND YOU MUST SHOW A PROFIT WITHIN 3 YEARS OR YOU WILL BE AUDITED!!!
Not to mention, have a STRONG back and be willing to work TIRELESSLY (working late night into early mornings is common for me), and have a great eye for quality, detail, and presentation.
Otherwise, you’ll have a “cute little shop” that turns into a junk store within 3-6 months because you cant keep up with it, AND THEN closes its’ doors within a year because you learned “HOW MUCH FUN IT WAS!!”, just like the one I pass on my way home every day after I close MY store.
Gives me a laugh every time I drive by it…
They left the store window still displayed with their “treasures” that were going to make them a fortune… Been sitting there for 6 months now.
But hey, if you don’t believe me and think you know what it takes to succeed in this business, give it a shot. Let me know how you’re doing after a couple years.
If you make it past the first one.
LOTS OF LUCK!!!!
I’m still in business though. LOL
can you you correspond with me I need some real advice. I really believe what you are saying! We are considering opening a small thrift store. We are four ladies, we all attend the same church and this is something we have dreamed about. If you can just help me out a little I would really appreciate it.
First, is it better go profit or non-profit?
Second, My sister is an event planner and baker, do we just have to limit it to just having a thrift store?
Third, what about insurance? Do we have to have it before we open?
4 partners? How much do you think these places make ?
Costs me $40k a yr to run a 2500 sq ft shop with 2500 sq ft additional storage space with 1 full time employee. That does NOT include buying the storage lockers. We clear about 100k GROSS. So that’s about 45-50k net. It would not be worth it to have even 1 partner.
We could make more $ by selling more stuff, but the profit gained to work performed ratio becomes disproportionate the more that you try to sell. The idea of owning a business is to work LESS and have more freedom, not work tirelessly 6 days a week until you keel over.
We are STILL open and profitable even through the pandemic. Almost 10 years now.
I’ve seen people over the years that think that buying MORE lockers means your successful. No it means the OPPOSITE. Storage locker buying is incredibly HARD WORK. If this was so easy and profitable, there’d be a store like mine everywhere.
Definitely don’t rush into any type of business. Do your research and know all of the variables before you start. You could easily start flipping hints on eBay or Craigslist though if you fins great deals. I had a friend whose parents did this and it turned into a used laptop selling eBay store.
I don’t see the appeal AT ALL but my father owns a thrift-like store in Utah and it’s been very successful for him. The best part is he’s hired his own staff, so he still works his part-time job and the store is essentially a passive income for him. He just drops in a few times a month to check on things, but essentially all the managing is done by the store manager =\ It’s pretty great because my parents have like $0 saved for retirement, so I’m really happy they created a source of passive income like this.
Wow, you have thought this through. It’s great that you wrote down the todo list. That way you can keep track of what you need to think about. I don’t think I can deal with all the antique though. I’m not really into collecting stuff so it’s hard for me to see the appeal. :)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts so far guys – this really helps :) It took me hours to get it all out of my brain and down on paper here, but now it’s more “real” and I think a great step to moving forward if it’s still something I’m excited about as time goes on. So thanks for commenting!
@Jon B – Glad you liked it! If I ever open it up one day, you’ll be the first to know!
@Scott – What excites me about having a phsyical place is the face to face interaction that goes on there, along with not being so tied to the computer and internet so much like I am now. Eventually I have to figure out a way to be surrounded with more people or I’m gonna end up becoming a recluse! :) (And you’re right about being knowledgable on ALL types of products – something right now I’d fail in.)
@Michelle – I know!! That’s still so crazy thinking about it, but also gives me hope :) I only assumed you could make a few hundred K at the most, but a few millions??? Your boss sure knew how to work it!
@Jennifer G. – Woahhhh that’s awesome!! I want to live there! Haha… I have no idea how much the booths would cost in this area, but $50 sounds like a steal. I need to do a lot more research still :)
@B. Rich – Oh nice! I’d considered it before on and off, but the problem I have is still being connected to the internet so much :( I need to find something more face-to-face so I don’t go stir crazy… great about your friends rockin’ it though!
@Marc @ FatAndBroke – Yeah, that’s def. the tricky part esp. as a newcomer when you’re competing against others who’ve been in the business for 20-30 even 50 years! But everyone starts at the beginning, right? Going back to your “more capital” idea, you could always consider buying out one of them already established and getting a head start? Or maybe partnering up while you learn? That excites me more than most of the other options really, just takes more risk (and capital). Glad you enjoyed the article though! I put a lot of time into it :)
@Lance@MoneyLife&More – For sure – I’m just at the beginning of all this but wanted to “get it all out there” to hear what others think and make it more real to me than in my head ;) We’ll see what happens.
@Bridget – Oh wow, cool!! Maybe you can intro me to him later if I get more serious so I can pick his brain?? That sounds like an AWESOME way to do things :)
@Joe @ Retire By 40 – Haha, yeah – if you don’t like the subject matter it’s def. not a good option :) I don’t like *all* types of antiques myself, but I’d imagine I’d learn a ton doing it and at least know what to look for to buy and sell – while keeping a few of the stuff I actually like for myself ;) Would really be incredible if I could pull it off.
I agree with both the eBay and antique store booth! I’ve read a TON of blogs where that’s the entire business — sometimes Internet and actual location, others just Internet. Or Craigslist for larger items. :)
I say it’s nothing you can’t dabble in at the very least! Maybe picking a specialty and starting off there. I always wanted to try it with old vintage cameras…. You know, learning the models to watch for, the prices they sell for and trying to buy a few to sell at a profit. Now you’re making me want to do it again!! ;)
I’d be most concerned about the time required. You don’t want to miss the early years of your kid(s) life because you’re spending all your time running a small business.
This sounds like a lot of work indeed but I’d shop at your thrift store! Would you sell vintage piggy banks?!?
I think it could be fun to open a thrift store up, but I also don’t think it would be easy. Like others have said it takes a lot of time finding stuff. You might go to an auction and not find a single thing to buy.
A buddy of mine started doing those storage auctions and he says the are fun, but he hasn’t won one yet. He has been buying wholesale lots (mostly body jewelry and hair products) on Ebay and other websites and letting his daughter sell them at his salon. Takes a lot of time to sell stuff but the mark up is so much that they can make money. It’s funny because I never know what he is going to buy next, last time I talked to him he bought 2 motorcycles, bid on a home, and bought a lot of 300 T-shirts. All these were done at online auctions or craigslist. I told him he needs to open up a store to sell all the junk he is buying.
This is a very interesting thought process. I definitely think getting into an existing store is best, as long as it’s in a good location to drive more traffic. It serves two purposes for marketing:
1. An existing store has an existing customer base, so you already have folks who are going to show up.
2. You can dress up in a costume and stand by the street to try to draw more customers into your store.
Those two layers of marketing should be good enough. And when you don’t have customers in the shop, you can be selling stuff on eBay and/or working on your other online businesses. Sounds like the perfect gig for you.
How to start a business: find a need and fill it.
You like scouring yard sales and thrift stores for undervalued items. Cedric obviously likes selling them. Partner up with him to provide him more stuff to sell for a percent of the profit! You can still do it part-time, and he can expand his business faster. As you said, one of the problems of running an antique/thrift shop is manning the shop yet needing to get new things to stock the store. It would be a way to get more serious about setting up your own store while learning more about the ins and outs of actually buying and selling things. You would get experience keeping track of accounts and inventory by having to keep track of what you had purchased, for how much, what Cedric is holding, what he has sold. You could get your business license and operate as a supplier, start learning the ins and outs of accounting and management. Win-win.
See how much time you have after the baby comes, and try the eBay route first. The auction prep can be done while baby is sleeping and you can wear baby in a carrier to go to sales and auctions. Once the little man comes out, you’ll have your biggest and most fulfilling project yet.
Don’t let the lack of a business plan stop you! You can bang one out in a weekend! Same with business insurance and the license, both should have minimal costs (I’d personally form an LLC as well).
Start out with the best of both world by setting up shop at a flea market on the weekends, that way you’re not tied down to a store during the week thus freeing up that time for buying and taking care of little baby $, and you still get to connect face to face with people!
American Pickers J$ style!
I don’t know why everyone recommends eBay at first; their fees are expensive, even just to list, even if you don’t sell. Be smart and use Craigslist at first. Seriously, I found a mid-century buffet for my Thrift Diving blog, which I was going to paint, but decided to see if I could turn it out for a profit, selling it as I bought it: unpainted and in perfect condition. I paid $40 for it at the thrift store… Paid $30 to haul it home…. And sol it online for a steal at $200. Seriously could have sold it for more, stupid me. But anyhow, Craigslist was the way to go. It was just a tester piece of furniture for me, and it proved that I could find aweso thrift deals and resell. I picked up an awesome vanity last week at the thrift store for freakin’ $11.00!! I could no doubt sell it on craigslist for over $100. Check out my Thrift Diving blog to see a pic.
Anyhow, go for it!
Oh, not to mention, I also went to the thrift store on a day they were having a phat deal, and ended up walking away with a buffet that I got for FREE, that they had out on the floor, marked for $60! Ha! No matter how much I were to see it for, it would be pure profit!
Hey, we should do business together! We ARE neighbors, eh? Go half on a booth somewhere…? I’m serious! Email me if it’s something you’d like to do!
@Meg – Haha you should!!! I ALWAYS come across old cameras at yard sales too and think that very same thing — How much are these REALLY worth?? Should I pick them up and try to resell?? If I ever get this store up in action (or even an eBay biz/etc), then I’ll be giving it a shot for sure :)
@A Family of Geeks – Hmmm… very good point. I already forget about the little guy cuz he hasn’t made it into the world yet! :)
@Agatha – You know it!! You can be one of my first customers when I throw a VIP party the night before it opens ;)
@DebtsnTaxes – HAH! For real. I heard it’s hard to get steals at the storage war things too – not as easy as it looks on camera ;) But I do like the randomness of what you can find! Would be a big perk indeed for me if I go down that road…
@Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – Yeah, it’s certainly the quickest way to get up and going too, huh? Maybe I could use your video skills to put together a sexy ol’ video for the store too! We’d go viral in no time ;) (Wait. CAN you go viral in the phsyical world? Haha…)
@Barb – I’m liking the way you think :) I bet he’d at least *listen* to my proposal? Maybe I can get “us” online too and help him learn that area of things?
@Kandace – I think you’re right there, haha… I keep forgeting I have to keep him in mind with things! :)
@Ryan – Yeah, son! I like it!
@Serena@ThriftDiving – Oooooooooh you better not tease me, girl!! I might take you up on that as soon as this baby comes and we get settled! Love it :)
Ha! You’re a night owl, too! Commenting at 2 am……I’m convinced That we bloggers are vampires ;)
Very cool story.
Running a thrift store sounds a lot like running a blog. Who knows, maybe with your blogging skills you’d make an excellent thrift store owner?
I’ve recently watched a few episodes of Storage Wars (I swear there was nothing else on) and the one thing that struck me was their ability to gamble thousands of dollars at a time. I would imagine you’d need a lot of startup capital to establish a decent inventory.
Actually, Andrew, you really wouldn’t need a lot money, especially if he took some time and built up his inventory when he found awesome deals. I have found an $11.00 solid wood vanity (mentioned above), $12.00 solid wood dining room table, $18 card catalog, $5.00 chairs, $30 or less dressers, $5.00 coffee table….you name it, I can get it for cheap. My poor garage and the hoarding thats out there could land me quite a lot of money should I decide to start selling it!
With a brick and mortar store, your customers are limited. Why not sell on eBay instead? Since you already have an online store, you can simply add these antique products to your store, or maybe create a new one for the thrift shop. Furthermore, you do not need to ruch on your business idea. I suggest you do more research before totally starting with the business.
I would definitely try online sales and then if that worked out, maybe buy an existing thrift store so it has a customer base built in.
You mentioned finding a working 1940 Singer machine. Those are actually much more common than you think. I just found 5 for $100 or less on a Craigslist search of my town. Its an item that seems like there wouldn’t be alot of but they were built to last and have.
Ha, this struck a chord J$ cos I’ve long fantasized about opening a vintage clothes store, picking up cool stuff at markets etc then reselling. I’ve got the name picked out and everything! Who knows if I’ll ever do it though – I got talking to a vintage clothes shop owner recently who was considering closing and just selling her stuff online. Lower overheads – but not as much fun either!
@Serena@ThriftDiving – Yes! The good vampires though :)
@Andrew@BankingBroke – It definitely takes RISK, that’s for sure. And knowing you’re not always going to score big no matter how hard you try. I think I could manage it in small doses in this present state, but I’d def. need more time and experience under my belt to feel totally confident.
@Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey – Cuz that’s boring ;) And I wouldn’t get to interact face to face w/ customers and the community like I’d want to either…
@Jess – Huh. Well that’s not as exciting as I’d hoped it to be then, haha… but I’m sure the one I saw was the best one anyone’s ever seen ;) Haha…
@Skint in the City – Awesome!! I hope you do go for it one day :) Are you allowed to tell us the name? Or me secretly via email??? I wanna know! :)
i am scrap buyer and seller that what i do for a living. im thinking of this on line selling i buy lots of scrap that is good stuff to sell.
Scrap as in scrap metals? like gold and silver? Or scrap products and what not? If it’s the former, heck yeah – you can make tons of money! Especially if you have a way to keep bringing it all in to melt down.
Hoping to not just be a repeat post, but minimizing the onramp by just doing it on the side would be the lowest risk and probably the most fun, too.
I’ve got a friend that has been doing this for years and has actually made more money some years than through his full time job as an engineer. He won’t do it full time because he doesn’t want the pressure of having to find and flip deals all the time to pay the bills and has a blast doing it on the side.
He does sell most things through eBay and bigger items on Craigslist, but gets the face to face interaction while buying at yard sales and store liquidations.
I say just start and see what happens!
I have been dying recently to open up a coin operated laundromat!
@Josh @ Money Butler – I love your friend!! That’s awesome (and encouraging)… I started picking up more stuff this weekend so we’ll see :) Just gotta figure out how it all works now that our baby has arrived! Haha… thanks for stopping by, my friend – love your site name.
@Evan – Oooooh that would be interesting! People still make good money off ’em? Have you done much research yet, or just playing with the idea? I’d be interested in learning more too :)
I love this article!! I am in the same boat as you (without a child on the way, although our bellys maybe the same size!)
I am very keen to start a Thrift Clothing store and branch out from there. I have a unique concept also and have made contacts with organizations that could fill my store and split the profits!
I just reluctant to make the leap into a big retail contract etc etc….
Have you heard of NARTS? I’m tempted to look into them further.
Let me know how it’s all going, I’m an English CA resident so really need to spend time with someone and research the steps needed to take over here to make my dream a reality!
Yeah man! That really is the key – surrounding yourself with people already doing it to get a good sense of the lifestyle/pros/cons/etc. I’ve been hanging out a LOT lately with my consignment shop friends and I have my days where I’m completely sold on the idea of starting my own, and then not even wanting to touch it – haha… it’s def. a big commitment and is the complete opposite of online properties like I’m used to :) But I also think it would be sooooo much fun and that THAT will overwrite the bad parts, ya know? I’ll def. update everyone if I do go forward with it, but right now we’re on pause and enjoying baby time and just finding bargains on weekends… We’ll see what the future holds!
(And no – I haven’t heard of NARTS before, but I’ll go and google now :))
Love this article!! It gave me inspiration to dream again about opening a thrift store. I am grateful to read the thoughts of others with the same dream. Thank you
Very cool! You totally should let us know how it goes if you DO end up moving forward in the near future :) Would love to hear the inside scoop from someone doing it!
how much capital do i need to start?
Oh man, no idea… But I bet it’s not much. Less than a more traditional store for sure. Especially if you have all the stuff you’d be selling in it already! Cuz what’s left after that? Rent and some marketing?
this is exactly what i want to do..we should talk more…
Cool! You’ll have to let me know if you get closer to making it a reality :) I’m trying out consigning and buying/selling at yard sales and thrift stores to get my toes wet still, and so far so fun!
A friend of mine moved to Florida some years ago and she started buying things at flea markets and painting/repairing them and selling them. She now has a store called “Home Again” (just moved to her new/bigger location) and the furniture and stuff she posts on facebook is BEAUTIFUL! I think she runs most of her shop as consignment, but I know she LOVES what she does. Feel free to hit her up (Lisa Morris is her name)… tell her Johnny in Baltimore sent you. :O)
AWESOME!!! I love your friend!! :) I will most def. tell her you sent me if I come across her site or reach out, that’s hilarious man… We’re neighbors here in the DC area.
scrap metal cooper brass stuff like that. im trying this on line thing not working out to well . think i need a on line store or something. i get a lot of stuff on my stops and buy cheap good stuff. dont no how to start or weres the best place to go list it all. right now its an ebay . not have any luck.
Hmm… that’s a tricky one. I don’t know much about that industry, but seems like it’s not as liquid as, say, flipping silver or gold where plenty of places will buy it from you :( maybe you can connect with a business that can use a lot of it? that would be pretty cool!
Oh My GOODNESS!!!! I have NEVER left a comment on blog that I found in google but I absolutely HAD to today! I am currently a stay at home mom of three who is OBSESSED with finding deals at the thrift store! So just recently I told my husband I wanted to open a thrift store to supplement his income (which we totally need). Talk about an eye opener. #1 thing I didn’t consider “what if I can’t pay my rent” um HELLO! I guess I was living in a dream world where stores are just automatically successful. Although I live in a pretty artsy farsty city so maybe there is still hope. I think I’ll start with ebay and see where that takes me. Anywhoo Thanks for the article!
Haha I get your first comment – WOOHOO! That’s awesome – I am honored :)
And yes – there is a LOOOOOT to think about when opening up your own thrift store/shop for sure. It’s a business after all so you really have to have the right mindset and expectations when going that route. But there’s nothing to say you can’t go for it in baby steps and work your way up! Rent out a booth at a flea market or antique mall or something – way less money and time investment :)
And it’s now Yard Sale season again too!!! So we can find more stuff for our stores, haha… aka our homes. Thanks for stopping by!
Good article..good info….something im definitely thinking of doing….
How much money do yo think i need to start?
Oh man, you’ve got me… I reckon it depends on where you live and how much rent costs there? That would seem to be the main expense, other than the purchasing of all the items to have enough to *open* the shop in the first place.
That was fun to read. Depressing, too, since the reason I was reading it was an effort to find out about starting my own thrift store, and what I read pretty much warned me not to do it. For someone who does not have a store, I have an incredible knack for acquiring things to sell. Sometimes I fit what I can in the truck and go to the flea market, but all the lifting, packing and unpacking, then repacking…just wears me out. The same is true with having garage sales, which I do to avoid paying for the $20. flea market space and to be closer to my bathroom. But every time I have a sale, the neighbors bring over things for me to sell, and I end up with more things than I started with, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if I didn’t have to pack everything up and move it out of the driveway after every sale. So, sure, I thought about opening a store. A place where everything that didn’t sell could stay where it was until the next day. A place where my sale items would be out of the sun and the wind and the dust. A place that could be “open” every day just by unlocking the door. A place far enough away from my driveway that we could actually USE the driveway–for, you know, parking the cars on it–and maybe even put the cars in the garage once in awhile. These seemed like very good reasons for opening a store….
….until I read your article. Then I had to laugh at myself. In truth, didn’t you know that I would? Didn’t you write it so that all of your readers, we dreamers, could see how silly we were to think that having our own store would be less work and more play? I think that you did. And good for you! It was nicely done.
You win the comment of the day :) And bring up TONS of things I didn’t even think about like with all that packing/re-packing and just “unlocking the door” to all your goodies – are you trying to convince all of us to now DO IT??? you are!! I know it!! Haha…
Thanks for making me smile.
This post is kind of old but I am hoping you’ll see my comment anyway. I wanted to thank you for posting this and I had a good time reading all the responses. Like other posters, running a thrift shop is my dream job! In my fantasy it would be in some funky little downtown, or maybe somewhere like New Orleans’ French Quarter and it would be a historic building where I could live upstairs and have my store downstairs. Yes, I’ve been dreaming about this for most of my life (I am 42).
My biggest obstacle is money to rent a space. I have a great idea for a niche store in the college town I am soon moving to but the cheapest commercial space I’ve ever seen there that would be appropriate is still about $1500 a month and it’s just scary! Especially when I can’t even pay more than $950 a month for a rental for my family to live in.
I’ve been selling on eBay for almost fifteen years now on a part time basis, mostly clothing (vintage and high end modern) and I know what I am doing, but selling clothes on eBay is time consuming, and I’d love to be able to sell items in person that I currently wouldn’t bother with because of shipping challenges. I’m not giving up yet! I am currently researching booth rental options in my city to see if there is something affordable and indoors that I could use as a space to sell on weekends, to get my feet wet and see how this would work for me or if it would work at all. I figure if I can rent a booth cheap enough that I can manage the rent even if I sell NOTHING, it will be a good way to test it all out and would give me a better idea of what kind of money I could make in my own store and make the rents seem less scary.
I just wanted to share with others who “get” this particular dream of mine and wish us all luck if we ever actually decide to take the plunge!
Woohoo! I like that idea of starting small (like with a booth) and seeing how it goes :) If you rock it you can slowly upgrade to a bigger space and eventually your own store. Some of the famous fashion designers use to sell stuff out of their cars before hitting it big! We all gotta start somewhere, right?
Glad you enjoyed the post and comments :) Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!
This is a wonderful subject and conversation. I am in the process of researching and putting into action my opening of a thrift store. It has been something I’ve thought of for almost 2 years…it still makes me smile and my heart race. It doesn’t take a lot of money…I do not plan on giving up my day job…I love it and still have bills to pay. Everyday I do something that puts me one step closer to opening my dream.
Good for you! It’s like I say about tattoos – if you’re still thinking about it after a cple years, it’s probably safe to get it ;)
You’ll have to let us know how it goes once you’re movin’ and shakin’… Yard sale season will be starting again in a few months and it’ll be prime for picking up bargains for it! Good luck!
So did you open one and if so how are you doing?
A lot of people keep equating flea markets , garage sales and thrift stores with Antique shops. It has really hurt the Antiques market due to all the fakes, trash and junk showing up under Antique signs in the US. Antiques dealers, who deal in real antiques, guarentee their items as original for life. They spend a lot of time researching and searching for genuine items in excellent condition.
I do appreciate thrift shops, but the number that stumble on true antique items is really limited. If you are going to hang an Antique sign please do not deal in junk, chinese reproduction “Antique” glass and items call them antiques.
I am all for more collectibles and thrift shops but call them what they are.
Great point :) You’re definitely right – there’s some sharp distinctions between a lot of these phrases being passed around, and I’m just as guilty as using them incorrectly. True antique shops are def. different than thrifts and yard sales. In price too ;)
The idea of having fun selling things is a myth. Let me show you ONE example. My friend has a upscale boutique consignment shop. She broke her back remodeling the place, it is heavenly. She does well, but..she also has a high theft rate. Let me say the store is right next to Pier One Imports so location is not the problem, and, her anti-theft tags are cut off by people. Go figure. The real issue is the ‘new economy’. Before I go on, let me say I have been buying, selling, rummaging..my whole life. I am 58. Back to the economy. As I see it, folks are going broke and getting desperate. And this affects all retail, new and used. A manager friend of a local Publix says he is losing 20-25k a MONTH in theft. And thats food! As of now, I would never open a walk in store. More on that later. Now lets look into the used whatever business. Take the flea market. Every weekend for years I have done well with used stuff, until recently. I try to focus on what people would need and use and maybe some nice gift type stuff, i.e. a great looking turkey platter, pots, pans, towels, holiday…things you or I might want to save $$ on. Now, on to what the put me out of business. 1. The price of gas. One has to go to a lot of different places to buy resale merch. 2. The places you buy from now have websites or sell on ebay. It is difficult to find good stuff. 3. Lack of disposable income. Including mine. Folks just don’t have it. 4. Customers can’t/won’t pay what you want, so you lose money. 5. Time. What used to take 1 weekend a month now takes 3 to sell what you should have sold in 1. The cost of a flea table is $20 a day. You lose money and more gas… A word on clothes, don’t do it. Period. There is a ray of hope though, so listen up. I have figured out how to get around this crappy economy [for now] A NICHE. One thing that can be tested and sold. Find or make something [even an ebook] that people will want and buy. i.e. costumes all year to resell online, these are a money maker. Love cookie jars? So do lots of people. Just sit down with yourself and come up with ideas. Get a notebook and just start. Do not look to the computer for this. Buying/selling and finding your niche is very much hands on and requires a lot of thinking. The computer only comes into play for selling. I will leave you with the best advice I have ever heard, “Do it while the sun is still shining” Mike Wolfe, American Pickers.
Love it! All great tips! Thanks so much for taking the time to share them with us. I’ve since crossed this idea off my list to do these days (having two baby boys puts the whole “time” thing in perspective more), but it’s still fun stuff to think about. I agree finding a niche – and becoming an EXPERT in it – is a great strategy to go down. Especially if it’s one you’re pretty passionate about (just like this blog here ;)).
Thanks again – I’m sure this will help future readers of this article.
This article started off so encouraging and motivating. Then the ending was a huge let down.
I realized one needs to be realistic and plan things out but why wait years?
And why eBay first? Such a sad day when people prefer online buying and selling of goods that should be seen in person, touched and felt…..
Apologies for the critism but my point is to say, don’t let the “hard work” stand in the way. Don’t take the easy (online) way out. You can do it with some time and effort. Even from scratch. Just gain the knowledge and ask for guidance from experienced people and I’m sure you’ll get a great start.
Sorry you didn’t like it at the end :) Just keeping it real up in here… I think the point I was trying to make back then was really that there’s huge potential here but you really have to *want it* bad enough to make it a priority. And that it’s not always a good fit for everyone and their situation.
At least that’s how I feel about this idea now. And it’s a good thing I didn’t jump in and try brick and mortar as I’ve since had two beautiful little boys and realize my 12 hour working days online are quite enough. I still find and sell stuff on Craigslist for thrills and a little money, but alas this Thrift Store dream will remain just that – something fun to think about every now and then. For all those who went for it – and succeeded – congrats!
I’m only 14 and I have been wondering if I should do a thrift store.This gave me some good advice.
Good, I’m glad! And I’m impressed that you’re thinking about being a business owner at only 14 too :) Whether it’s this, or something else, running your own show can be incredibly rewarding. Not only for the $$ aspects, but also for the gobs of learning opportunities. I wish I had that mindset at your age!
I have been running a nonprofit thrift store for a few years now. Make sure that when considering opening a for profit store you have time, time and more time. Time on the weekends to purchase (auctions, yardsales, estate sales etc.), Time to clean dirty items, repair damaged items etc. Time to price every individual item, Time to keep your store neat and clean, time to sell your business to the community, Time to promote sales and special events, time to ….well you get the idea. It’s a 60 to 70 hour work week (at least for me). It can be profitable and rewarding, but only if you have the TIME
Haha…. very good thing to know, yes :) I’m glad you’re sharing this with us here too as anyone who hasn’t run a business before (whether in this line of work or another) surely needs to know about the time factor. And I’ll point out that stuff always takes MORE time than you try and guestimate too! It can be frustrating…. And all the reason to really love what you do too since you’ll spend more time working on your biz than sleeping and hanging out with friends/family/etc etc… It’s not for the lazy!
Wow! It’s 11:30 p.m. Sunday night and I finally got through the entire post I started an hour ago and could not stop reading!! From July 2012 to last month 2014. I want to thank everyone for their wonderful input. I too as many apparently out there, have been dreaming about opening a thrift store. I did do a little booth for a while and sell at local flea markets. But just this past weekend I visited a cute thrift store located in a nice area. I hit it off with the owner who is a high spirited 70 year old lady and she wants to sell the business to me for 10k. She owns the building which has two units. Said she decided to open up five years ago since one unit was being used as storage. She said it does very well, the only thing that freaks me out too is the rent. $1700 a month including utilities. This post helped me get motivated and try and figure it all out before I talk to her to negotiate. I do have a full time job I can’t just walk out of and lose that income. I live an hour and half away, but thought about making my own hours and close shop earlier to be home with my family or I can hire a part time person to close for me. She has a client base already and I’m sure she would be willing to show me the ropes. I just keep thinking if she has the energy, then why not me? She’s nearly twice my age! Any advise on what do ask or look out for if I decide to buy it? I’ve never been in retail, but live my spare time in second hand stores, yards sales and craigslist.
Oh wow, what an opportunity! And so glad you found this post and all the comments helpful. Great great readers who stop by and share with us – helps the entire community :)
The first thought that came to my mind towards the end of your comment was “Be prepared to go “all in” on this if you buy it.” Whether thrift store related or any other type of storefront, a business is a business and requires all kinds of effort and avenues than just the fun parts you and me and others like :) (you have to market stuff, source stuff, deal with inventory, accounting (yuck), office management, staff management if you go that route, and on and on..)
As much as I want to say “just go for it!” I probably would not unless you were okay with quitting your job sometime soon. Or at least giving up nights and weekends to manage everything (even if the store’s closed there’s still business-stuff to do). And being the new father of two baby boys since writing this article (wowwww – that’s crazy to think about!), there’s no way I’d risk that time away from them. Especially if it’s 1 1/2 hours away just to get there – yikes!
So my vote would be to talk with her and ask all the questions you can to learn, but only sign on the dotted line if you’re going to commit all the way (and of course don’t lead her on if you’ve already made the decision). Another route is to find a business partner to share responsibility/profit/loss with, but that’s also a tricky one (though do-able, obviously). Just remember that no one will care about the business as much as you though, even if you have staff. It’s like having an extra kid – hah!
(And the reason I know all this is because I run multiple sites online and have been self-employed for 4 years running this as a business. And even with all the time in the world (minus kid stuff) I still struggle to keep up. There’s always something to do – even though I enjoy it – but it’s not something that can be half-assed unless I want half-ass results.)
Anyways, just my two cents :) There’s no harm in dreaming and learning about it all whether you pull the trigger or not! Keep doing your research and hopefully your gut will lead you to the right decision. Hope this helps!
To everyone thinking about starting one or any business, just do the thing you wanna do, period. You’re not gonna get it right the first time, or second or third… failure is necessary to be successful in any business venture and in life itself. Stop trying to wait for that “perfect” time because it’ll never be a perfect time. Quit your job, if you don’t you’ll be too relaxed and won’t put forth 100% the effort.
Agreed. But even better if you have a plan and some cash stashed before jumping all in. Not everyone’s cut out to be a business owner.
Obviously I found this article in my own pursuit to open a thrift/consignment shop….I have had very successful yard sales after doing my spring cleanings and really think I would enjoy it. What I am wondering is if it makes sense to convert my 2 car detached garage into a temporary store/storage space while I promote online sales of items…my point being if everything was displayed when people picked up items purchased on craigslist they could browse and I would increase my sales….However, I would not want to do a complete overhaul of my garage….
Hah! I would try selling everything online/CL/eBay first and see how it goes, and then just store all your stuff in the garage while you learn and figure it out. If it goes great and makes sense then, go for it! But you can probably do just fine without the overhauling… I sell 1-2 items every week on Craigslist myself and rarely do the buyers end up wanting my other stuff. Though I also meet everyone in public too just for privacy reasons. So that’s another thing to consider too :)
Wow… Just read your post.. And i am a thrift store, second hand shop, garage sale, estate sale shopper on weekends and weekdays if work allows it. I am an antique and trinket fanatic.. at first it began as a hobby to furnish my apartment with great finds and bargains. But i have always wanted to own my own store next to a weekend home ( hope this comes true). I am a french doctor and i practice antiaging medecine in Mexico. The reason i mention this is because i grew up in france and my parents were antique fans and i have learned from an early age the beauty and the worth of antiques. So when i started to see all this furniture and amazing stuff left and right at second hand store down here i freaked out and decided to take advantage of these great oportunities that were pretty much thrown at me and show people that there is Still room for antiques in a modern world. Ps this is the first time i’ve written about this. As baby number one was on the way i found this gorgeous desk which i have used as a baby diaper changer. It’s very sturdy and the perfect height and all these compartments are awesome for the diapers and other items. I will use this desk long after my son is grown up. I don’t know if I’ll ever own a store but making your house look great with thrift store finds is becoming my specialty and i am very proud of myself for being different and trying out different things with my “trinkets” .
YES!!!! AGREED!! It does seem like antiques collecting is going out of style with all the internet stuff and minimalism crazy going on (which has even affected my own slow down of picking stuff up), but all that means is that there will be more goodies for us to find and use over time :) And decorating your place on the cheap will always be in style. Better than spending lots of money on cheap furniture/stuff!
Very good thanks
I just recently started following my dad’s footstep on appreciating vintage/antique items. I’ve been going through some books and the internet to learn about everything. I got flea markets, I look at things, I observe, and I talk to people. I started selling online but I begin to realize I don’t want to be in my 9~5 job for the rest of my life. I want to take this to the next level, having my own shop! My husband just told me last night, if that’s something I really want, I should start building up a business plan. I’m doing my research and your article came up. I agree having an online shop definitely makes business easier, but never forget, anything history may not be written on books. Having a brick and mortar shop allows you to talk to people and often time you see and learn new things. I’m not the most social person but a antique shop is more than just a business but a gate way for the present to meet the past. I’m just glad I have found this side of my passion at a younger age and looking forward to learn more!
Yup – definitely true too! Pros and cons in either direction, but sounds like you’ve found the one that’ll work best for you/your personality :) I bet one day I open up some sort of in-person one too once I’m settled in an area for a long time and start prying myself away from online business, haha… It’ll be nice to get back to real life people again :)
Let us know if you end up going for it later! Would love to follow along your journey.
I had this same idea 2 years ago, filled up my house with resale items, opened a storage lease, got a place to sell stuff. Tah dah. I will say this, I am completely obsessed with thrifting & haggling so yah
Nice! I’ll have to live vicariously through you then :)
I believe some thrift stores have local and virtual shops. And it would be better to start from virtual platforms such as mercari, offerup, letgo…etc.
Also there’s 2 types of thrift business. For profit and non profit.
The non profit is the most popular one where you just pay yourself and your stuff members a salary…etc.
Hey, great article I enjoyed reading it.
Especially since you’re such a relatable character to me.
My name also starts with the letter j
I also would like to open a thrift store, especially one near the beach and 10 feet from my house.
I also am the proud owner of a mohawk and enjoy driving around blasting hip-hop.
What I really want to know though is how is this dream coming along? Did you ever start selling stuff online?
Haha – nice to meet you, fellow J :)
My dreams have change since writing this post, but I still very much enjoy shopping at thrift stores! I just don’t want to personally be tied down to one that requires my physical presence…
But yup – I shop and occasionally sell items online , both on Ebay and Craigslist. One of my friends actually runs a super successful website/course on flipping stuff if you’re interested in checking it out –>https://fleamarketflipper.com/
Keep reading around and researching if it’s a dream of yours though! Nothing’s better than going after what you really want in life :)
The property & Antique Shop u mentioned wouldn’t happen to be in Livermore, CA would it?