When Kellie Johnson, owner of Kellie’s Consignments in Okemos, opened her first resale store in East Lansing, she put her heart and soul into it. She trusted that, in return, her business would grow and provide her customers with a valuable service. Her instincts were right. In the six years since she opened her first consignment store, Johnson has seen business boom — so much so that she soon opened two shops, one in East Lansing and one further east in Okemos. And a few months ago, she expanded yet again to a bigger building in Okemos, on the southwest corner of the Okemos Meijer parking lot, where she could house larger pieces like furniture. She kept the East Lansing shop, which continues to operate like a typical thrift store. Her newest location offers higher quality items and is large enough to hold furniture, clothing, jewelry, artwork and much more. It has more rooms than Johnson can count; each one has a theme — like the purse room, shoe shop, princess room and formal room. Her 17 dressing rooms each have their own theme. “We’re becoming known for our distinct and fun dressing areas,” Johnson said with a laugh. The clothing areas feel like a boutique and the rest of the store “looks cute and appealing,” she said, adding that she kept much of the former owner’s décor. Even though the primary purpose of the store is to have a place for patrons to buy and sell their items, it’s also becoming a gathering place. “I wanted my shops to be like retail stores of old similar to a general store or barber shop,” Johnson said, “a place where neighbors gather and catch up on each other’s news.” Her shoppers have become friends. A week-and-a-half before opening the newest shop, she fell and broke her arm. Her shop manager rallied the community to help put finishing touches on the shop. They painted, moved furniture, and set up items and much more. “It’s touching how the community came pouring out to help me,” said Johnson. This experience supports Johnson’s belief that when you give of yourself, you get much in return. Working as a medical technician in a mammography lab, she developed an innate tendency to be caring and compassionate —traits she brings to the customers at her consignment shops. She’s also brought her sense of adventure. Johnson’s known for some time that she wanted to work in sales. “Sales is my thing,” she said. So when she was considering a new career, retail seemed a logical field for her to choose. But the consignment idea was “almost an accident,” she said. When she decided to take the plunge into retail, she discovered how expensive it would be to have an ample supply of inventory on hand. “In a consignment shop, your customers bring the inventory to you.” And that’s what creates the sense of fun and adventure. “I never know what I’m going to get,” she said. She describes shopping at Kellie’s Consignments as going on a treasure hunt. She advises shoppers to “expect the unexpected.” It’s an adventure for sellers, too. “They don’t always know what they have. We can do research to help them find the value of their merchandise,” she said. As for the future, Kellie’s Consignments is only “at the tip of the iceberg.” Johnson has plans to build a loading dock to receive large pieces of furniture. She’s ramping up her men’s apparel, too, which she said is the “largest growing segment.” Johnson’s becoming well-known to stores throughout Michigan who need a home for their liquidated items. Eventually, Johnson wants to oversee estate sales, too. And she wants to impart valuable lessons she’s learning. “I want to empower women to be their best selves, and that starts with wearing things that complement you,” she said. “If you have a giving heart, you’ll be blessed.” When you look at the success and friendships Johnson’s enjoying, it seems clear that she just may have a good point.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.