What began as an idea five years ago has quickly blossomed into a booming business for Divine Consign owner Kellie Scott.
Five years ago, Scott was moving and had a lot of furniture to sell. While researching places to sell her furniture she discovered that there was nowhere to sell it so she held a house sale. About a half-hour before the sale began there was a line around the block. "It struck me at that moment that there was clearly a need being unfulfilledboth on the buying and the selling side," said Scott. "So I began to research the proposition. Chicago and particularly Oak Park seemed to be perfectly suited for this concept. So a year and a half later, I gave it a shot. I had no idea what I was getting into." She subsequently left her high stress job of 16 years and never looked back.
Scott's philosophy is that decorating your home should be a fun, affordable and low stress proposition. She imagined Divine Consign as "a haven where people like you and me could shop for home gently used furnishings and décor in an exciting and inviting atmospherewithout being intimidated or pressured. Basically, I wanted to love my job and I wanted everybody to love it with me."
The store attracts customers from all over Illinois who are looking for a unique shopping experience, said Scott. They also have a number of corporate clients and work with many design showrooms and designers. "I imagined Divine Consign to be in its own little nicheright between the high end antique consignment stores and the dark dirty thrift shops," said Scott. "I wanted a store that was affordable for everybody and had something to suit every taste. I couldn't have imagined it to turn out any better than it has."
With about 6,000 consigners and more than 100,000 items since the store began, Scott noted that they quickly grew out of their 3,500 square-foot space and took on a second space of equal size. They recently combined both showrooms and moved to their current location, a 10,000 square-foot space at 809 S. Oak Park Ave. At first it was just Scott and her college-bound daughter working in the store and now they have 20 employees.
Items are only kept in the store for 60 days. For the first three weeks an item will stay at the original price (the store determines the price); after that it is marked down 20 percent. If the item hasn't sold in six weeks, it is marked down 40 percent and if the item is still on the showroom floor after 60 days (less than 5 percent of the items don't sell) the consigner gets their item back or it is donated to charity and the consigner gets a tax write-off. Scott says that this unique pricing system keeps them from accidentally overpricing an item and the inventory moving through the showroom." In the past three years, Divine Consign has donated more than $250,000 to local Chicago charities. It is a win-win situation for everybody," said Scott.
The store also has five designers on staff. These designers help clients put together rooms for free while they are in the store. They also offer in-home interior design services. Upholstery services are also available from their full-time upholsterer. If a customer loves a piece of furniture but hates the fabric they are able to replace the fabric. They will also upholster furniture obtained from other stores. Surya rugs are also sold in the store as well as custom drapery.
As for the most interesting piece she's had in the store Scott says that it is always the next thing that comes into the store. Recently, she liked a pair of antique 24-inch high gold Chinese Foo Dogs so much that she took them home with her.
Although they have an online store, Scott says that most of their sales still occur in the store. "We have people who say they cyberstalk our online store to keep up with the new arrivals," said Scott. "When they see what they are looking for, they will call us and put the item on hold or run right in to see it before it is gone." The online store, Scott noted, "has generated new consignors and customers to the store and gives consigners and customers the ability to see what the store sells, the typical sales prices and the speed with which items sell."
Along with a traditional website, Divine Consign also has a blog and social media presence. They have over 1,300 likes on Facebook and around 575 followers on twitter. Scott noted that Facebook and twitter gives them the ability to spread the word about sales and events and engage with their customers and consigners in a quick and effective way. Social media platforms aren't the only way that new customers find out about her store. People also come to her store because of word of mouth.
Divine Consign is currently holding a designer furniture warehouse event at 411 W. Harrison St. in Oak Park. The sale, which runs through Feb. 17, features more than 500 pieces of furniture from seven showrooms at the Merchandise Mart; Martin-Wood, C.A.I Designs, Kenneth Ludwig, Anacara, Chi Ming Studios, Lily Jack and Dana Creath as well as inventory from Park Place Interiors in Geneva. "This is furniture that was previously unavailable to people like you and me. It was only available through interior designers," said Scott. "We are offering these pieces for 10 days and selling them for 50-90 percent off of retail prices. It really is a great deal."
Scott also has a store on 810 North Blvd. in Oak Park called Trends. It is an upscale clothing consignment boutique with the tagline "unlimited style for the limited budget."
"Come see us," said Scott. "Once you have, you will be hooked."
See www.divineconsignoakpark.com and www.trendsoakpark.com for more information.