ON CONSIGNMENT: OWNER GOES FOR SECONDS

eliaAnn Marie Elia arranges the stock at her Fair Haven store. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When Ann Marie Elia opened her first business, All Things Consignment, in West Long Branch two decades ago, it was a tough start for the self-described “clothes and jewelry junkie.”

“Twenty years ago, people looked down on you for shopping at a consignment shop,” Elia said. “Now, it’s so hip.”

So hip, in fact, that Elia is in the middle of an apparent consignment boom along the Navesink. Elia opened her second All Things Consignment location on River Road, next door to Shutters Cottage Home, in October, and hers is one of two that recently opened in Fair Haven — just a microcosm of a regional trend she’s seen, she said.

“I’ve never seen so many pop up in one year,” Elia, 45, said. “It’s the times.”

The times, however, had nothing to do with Elia’s expansion into Fair Haven, she says. Rather, she was looking to open up a higher-end store, just needed to find the right place, and Fair Haven fits for her upscale women’s consignment shop.

“It had nothing to do with the economy. There’s never a good time or a bad time,” she said. “I felt I needed to do it.”

But the economy is proving to be a boost for her. Elia said she gets a steady flow of customers dropping clothes off or rifling through racks for deals. People, she said, simply don’t want to pay retail prices anymore.

Elia is giving people plenty of reason not to. Her shop is a fashion treasure trove of deals, carrying many of the chic brand names: Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel and the like. She carries jewelry, too, but that’s all new, she said.

Elia does things a little differently from most second-hand stores. She offers what she calls a concierge service, so if somebody is too busy to make a drop-off, her staff will take care of getting the merch.

“We’ll go to their home and actually clean out their closets,” Elia said.

She also lets customers draw up wish lists. If there’s an item a client has an eye on, Elia will call as soon as it comes in. And there’s always stuff coming in and going out of the store, she said. Items that don’t sell are donated to the Monmouth County SPCA and a local battered-women’s shelter.

With two decades of business under her belt, Elia has proven she has staying power in the consignment industry. Will she stay afloat amid a surge of second-handers opening up?

Elia says yes. About eight years ago she opened a men’s consignment store, called Suits You, in Little Silver. It was open for three years — “three years too long,” she said — before Elia called it quits, because “men really don’t shop.” So Elia says she’s learned the lessons to stay viable in the industry.

“It’s true — consignment shops open up and close within a year or two because they’re not run properly,” she said. “If something fails you always take away something to learn. I’m not afraid of failing.”