Lolo's 25 Anniversary
For an unbelievable 26 years, Lolo’s Consignment has been part of the fabric (no pun intended) of St. Helena and the larger Napa Valley.
I can still remember the day we opened in September of 1996 in what is now the Wydown Hotel, known then as “The Donaldson Building.” The matriarch, Gladys Donaldson, had been kind enough to rent to a rookie (and only a 3 year resident!) while son Bill Donaldson was my next door neighbor with the Radio Shack, a downsize of the appliance/electronics store the family had once served the community with. At the end of that first day, a friend inquired as to how it went and I answered with wonder “people came in and actually bought things!”
Lolo’s (nickname for daughter, Lauren, 5 years old at the time) was the end result of a business plan written originally to be a children’s resale store, however, that opening day’s store inventory included women’s and men’s clothing as well as a few painted chests and tchotchkes. Since we didn’t have a ton of anything there was a lot of space in between our displays and merchandise. Since then it has been a fight to keep space between things: such is the nature of the beast called consignment. Lolo’s mantra and raison d’etre: people have way too much stuff!
Our beginning inventory had arrived as a result of a letter and refrigerator magnet (all the rage then) sent to local women stating the purpose of the business, that being primarily to sell gently used clothing for women. I asked (begged?) that if each recipient of the letter brought in just one piece from their closet that they no longer wore to sell at this fledging business, I would have the necessary inventory to start. Though I had no initial idea what would sell, I quickly learned how to separate the wheat from the chaff with the community providing more than enough potential merchandise to choose from. This is still the case even today as we have been blessed with so many wonderful closets to sell from as well as selling items ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, from $.50 to $5,000. People ask sometimes and I tell them the very best item we ever sold was a stuffed trophy marlin. I think we sold it for ½ off but still…..
The most memorable occasions at that original Lolo’s location were the fashion shows, done with the idea that the community would see fellow community members modeling Lolo’s clothing so as to persuade skeptics that second hand clothing was cool and here to stay. The initial fashion show involved completely clearing out the store of racks, setting up a gigantic runway and serving bubbly. When it was finished (to loud applause), the spectators jumped up ready to buy, but we had stored the racks so there was nothing to sell beyond the clothes on the models’ backs! But it did create a buzz….
We lived through the sale of the Donaldson building to the new owner, Norm Alumbaugh, a developer who envisioned above store studio living spaces at 1424 Main Street. The remodel began and took two years, with scaffolding and a tall wood wall blocking the storefronts, creating a covered walkway for the sidewalk. Needless to say, this wasn’t good for business so, in desperation, we painted and dressed the lower part of a mannequin, positioned it (her) upside down with her legs in the air so it looked as if she had climbed over the wall to get to Lolo’s. She changed clothes with the seasons, for example donning a raincoat and boots when it used to rain. Our outdoor display had its fans and detractors but it did catch one’s eye and it kept us open enough to move to our present location (at the old Stansberry Ford) the very day the last nail was hammered and the scaffolding removed.
Of course, I have not been alone with this Lolo’s journey. I am so very proud and honored to have had the best and most loyal employees along the way. Lolo’s has taken the proverbial village to run and could not have been done without Celia Guzman (24 years), Dani Brown (12 years), Elvia Orta ( 10 years) and (recently retired) Vicki Long (7 years total) who was THE original employee of Lolo’s, plus countless talented young assistants that grew and flew with Lolo’s, most recruited from St. Helena High School. That tradition holds to this day as well.
And then there are our customers and consignors!
We wouldn’t be here without you!!
An interesting bunch, on both sides of the aisle! Because of our location on Main Street (below the “Central Shopping District” boundary) we can attract the attention of people just entering our town, either on purpose or just passing through. We love when our first- time visitors become regulars!
Folks that shop consignment (primarily women, no surprise there!) are usually interested in a bargain (no surprise there, either) and therefore can be much more discerning than the “regular retail” shopper. There is also the fascination that our merchandise is “pre-chosen” and goes down in price the longer it lives with us. Maybe that just gives it a little more moxie. In any case, the ubiquitous Lolo’s Discount Card (a low tech punch-card with its upgrade, the “Lifer Card”) comes in handy to get that bargain at the lowest price possible. Who doesn’t want a discount, really?
Other folks that come in want to help save the planet and make a habit of not buying “new.” Many are looking for that unique piece for their home or closet or maybe a (cheap) souvenir of their trip to the Napa Valley. Some clothe themselves and family members almost exclusively with pre loved clothing to stretch a budget. Some can be very needy, want to be shown everything and then grind us down on the price! Pain!
Some people cross over as both consignors and customers, reaping the benefits of membership in both groups! Consignors can be needy too, sometimes just a little (a lot) attached to that item they were just willing to sell, thinking that it has worth that it sadly, really doesn’t have. It really only boils down to what someone is willing to pay. The consignors that just “drop and run” are generally our favorites (yes, we have favorites) because they truly get that “it’s just stuff” and you just have to move on from being ruled by your possessions. Ultimately, we try to be good stewards of your things and are grateful for our ability to able to present and sell things that deserve more than just one wear or one use.
We love you all (some a little less than others) and you know who you are!
I am so grateful to have been in the position of meeting and knowing a community and their families and giving back when we could. I have watched countless kids grow from in utero to young adults, some going and some comlng back. We try to remember your names with some success! We try to be “Cheers” without the bar but with upbeat music and good vibes. We always hope we continue to see you!
Please drop by and celebrate this milestone with us on Wednesday, September 15! We will open early and stay later to offer you 25% off on Fall clothing, a glass or two of bubbly and some anniversary cake! In addition, Angela Hoxsey (House in Order) will be here to give you 25 tips about decluttering your living and office spaces. Stay tuned for details.
Thanks so much for 25 great years!
Lolo’s aka Kristine Waldenburg