THE SECOND TIME AROUND

BY AMANDA BLACK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

From the outside, Lowcountry Consignments looks like a quaint home with a lovingly maintained exterior. Decorated with a little garden, complete with blooming flowers and fresh mint, the sweet facade makes the building appear small. But that initial impression is immediately eclipsed when you walk inside. Your first thought will undoubtedly be like mine: “Wow, it’s huge in here!” I exclaimed to owner Nancy Jones.

Lofted ceilings frame the expansive showroom that’s peppered with everything the imagination can dream up: velvety loungers, hardwood banquets, gilded mirrors, original artwork from the Lowcountry and much more. It’s akin to discovering a grandiose cavern filled with treasure, and since the inventory turns over every day, you can walk in on a Friday and return Saturday for a completely different experience. Just 24 hours after initially striking out, you might uncover the gem you were hunting for.

Jones has worked hard to make the store a destination for any shopper. “We focus our energy on selling the highest quality consignments within a broad range of budgets,” she says. Little vignettes decorate the store’s more than 7,000 square feet, helping customers envision how larger pieces could be displayed in their own space. Jones notes that people will often come in needing one piece, a coffee table for instance, and discover an item she’s staged with it, like a love seat. Perhaps it isn’t a matching set from the same designer, but Jones sees the potential and presents it to customers. “We’re trying to change the idea of what can go into your home,” she says.

Of course, with around 20,000 items in stock at any given time, the selections are endless. Luckily, Jones is there to help you discover them. As an owner, she’s constantly buzzing around the store. Whether she’s helping a customer find the perfect lamp, piece of art or an entire living room set, her eye for design comes from years of experience.

Originally from North Carolina, Jones and her family vacationed on Sullivan’s Island each summer. During her first career, she worked her way up to become dean of students at a California university’s school of architecture and design. After years in academia, Jones turned her sights to real estate. That career shift gave her the skills she would need to help breathe new life into Lowcountry Consignments. Focusing on personalized customer service, Jones says, “I do an open house every single day—it’s just a bigger home.”

However, her passion for the consignment business goes beyond a desire to give treasured pieces new homes. “Everything we sell keeps something out of a landfill,” Jones says. The store’s environmental philosophy is at the core of most decisions. When choosing what to accept, she focuses on wellmade, unique pieces worthy of preservation. “It’s the right thing to do; it’s the good thing to do,” she says.

Jones takes that belief one step further. Although 98 percent of the store’s inventory sells, she partners with Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, donating what remains to the charity. Every consignor agrees to a 60-day sale period with a 50/50 split. If their item doesn’t sell, they can retrieve it or the shop will donate it. “It’s a sweet little pattern,” Jones says about the next step in the recycling process.

Another service that sets Lowcountry Consignments apart is its approval policy. “We really care about the customer and want them to be happy,” Jones says. It’s a simple idea that most retail stores employ but few consignment shops embrace: returns. Jones explains: “I don’t want you to get home and say, ‘I hate that lamp and now I’m stuck with it!’ I want you to say, ‘I got that at Lowcountry Consignments. I tried it and it worked perfectly!’”

“Doesn’t that just make sense?” she asks. I have to agree.

Amanda Black is a writer and editor living in Charleston.