CONSIGNING WOMEN

by ROBIN HOWARD / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

THIS IS A STORY ABOUT ONE of Charleston’s not-so-well-kept secrets: An antique and vintage furniture consignment shop called The Red Dresser. The Red Dresser opened two years ago on Mill Street in Mount Pleasant, tucked away in a cozy spot on Shem Creek.

The owner, Paula Moland, opened the store as a way to rotate through her formidable collection of eclectic vintage and antique furniture, and as a way to reconnect with life after the deaths of her husband and son. The store did so well that she recently opened a second location in West Ashley, opposite the Coburg Cow.

Moland gets a lot of her inventory from magnificent island and historical homes whose owners are downsizing. “I am amazed by the inventory I get,” she says. “We get absolutely gorgeous antiques and vintage pieces that are very high-end. Sometimes people are downsizing, and sometimes they want a fresh look, but they just want someone to take things off their hands. We sell these pieces at great prices. The younger generations benefit from it, as do locals and people moving in from out of state who want to add a bit of Charleston to their homes.”

It didn’t take long for designers to find The Red Dresser, recognize the ever-rotating inventory of high style at low prices and start frequenting the shop looking for deals for their clients. Many designers and other customers come for the deals but come back for the camaraderie.

“It’s been wonderful because a lot of our customers have bonded with our staff,” Moland says. “People come to shop, but they come to chat, too. The store has become a social hub.”

For example, Tracy worked her entire career in historic preservation. Now, working at The Red Dresser helps her stay connected. “We get people relocating, people leaving, people trying to settle the estates of their parents,” she says. “To be able to connect with them and to help them with their needs, whether it’s buying or selling, it’s enjoyable.”

Dara works full time in a medical office and can usually be found at the store on Sundays. “I’ve been collecting vintage furniture and antiques since I was a child,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun because every week when I go in, something has always changed.” Dara also loves the clientele. “The people who come in are usually having fun. And the ladies, we gel. We all have the same addiction.”

“I’m a recovering mortgage banker,” says Glenda. “Working at The Red Dresser is much more fun. Sometimes when people come in, they open up. I feel like we’re there to share in the human experience and commiserate in a way we couldn’t do at other jobs. We can enjoy our customers. If they need to talk about things, we talk about things.”

Martha S. is a former speech therapist. “The Red Dresser is special because we all enjoy working here,” she says. “We’re different ages and different backgrounds, so we each bring something unique. Paula has built a neat little community.”

Martha D. is freshly retired from the school system and was looking for something fun to do in her newly free schedule. “I love meeting people in the community and the many travelers looking for Charleston treasures,” she says.

At 28, Jasmine is the youngest. “I have an old soul. I have a love for antiques,” she says. As for working at The Red Dresser, Jasmine says, “I don’t know how I got so lucky. I love to get to know people, and I love to talk!”

The Red Dresser is open seven days a week in both locations. It offers free pickup and delivery once a month—and complimentary camaraderie every day.

Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com