Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Deborah Slobin. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Deborah, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. What was it like going from idea to execution? Can you share some of the backstory and some of the major steps or milestones?
After working for nearly 25 years in the food distribution industry in Florida, I moved back to Michigan to be closer to my aging parents. I was burnt out from the food industry and was seeking a career change when a friend of mine proposed a crazy idea. I met Julie as a waitress at one of my favorite restaurants where she had been working for years, and was also burnt out from the work she was doing. She called me out of the blue to tell me that a really cool 3,000 square foot commercial building by her home had recently gone up for lease, and she wanted to go into business with me, lease the building, and open a consignment store. I thought, we’ve got no experience in the industry, no money saved, let’s do it!
Through the grapevine we heard about Hebrew Free Loan, a Jewish organization that offers small business and personal loans, we presented them with a proposal, and they approved us for a $7,500 loan, which is all we had for the down payment on our lease, to outfit the building that was in desperate need of repairs, to buy signs, and to stock the store with inventory. We stretched that $7,500 to the limit, and opened our store only a few months later.
Within the first 6 months we were packed with consignments and already seeking to expand, growing month over month. Only a few months later, while shopping an estate sale for new inventory, we met the owners of the estate sale company running the sale and hit it off. They had been seeking a brick and mortar location to sell high value items leftover from their estate sales and were interested in partnering with us on a larger space. Less than 6 months later we opened up our flagship store, Le Shoppe Too, a two floor 12,000 square foot showroom, and the rest is history.
As we continued to grow and expand, the demand for our services only grew alongside us, and a year after we opened Le Shoppe Too we expanded to an additional 6,000 square foot space in our building and grew our showroom to 18,000 square feet, and became full partners of the estate sale business.
Over the years following we expanded our business online, opening up stores on eBay, Etsy, 1stDibs, Chairish, and finally our own e-commerce website where we sell and ship world wide. We partnered with Detroit Fine Art Appraisals to open up Le Shoppe Auction House where we now host quarterly auctions, and we recently expanded our showroom further to an on-site warehouse with an additional 7,000 square feet of showroom space.
Now, ten years after our original idea when we started with almost nothing, we are continuing to grow year over year, our 3,000 square foot store has grown into a 25,000 square foot store, and through our online business we are known not only locally, but globally as a force in the resale world of iconic 20th century furniture, art, and home decor.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
We own and operate 3 sister businesses to provide an all purpose liquidation solution for anyone inheriting, liquidating, or downsizing a home or estate. We host estate sales in clients homes, in addition to off-site and online estate sales hosted out of our warehouse space through our estate sale company Changing Hands Estate Sales. We run quarterly auctions that take place both in person and online to a global audience through our auction house Le Shoppe Auction House. And we operate a 25,000 square foot resale consignment showroom filled with iconic 20th century furniture, fine art, and home decor, Le Shoppe Too.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
In our time in business we have had to pivot many times to continue our growth and success. Our original store started as a consignment store for clothing, accessories, and shabby chic furniture. Through trial and error and closely tracking our costs and profits, over time we realized that finding a market for higher value items required significantly less cost than dealing in a higher quantity of lower value items. As we grew, we phased out the consignment of clothing and accessories, shifting to furniture, art, and home decor. As we tracked what our best and worst selling items were based on style and time period, we slowly shifted from shabby chic to mid century modern. While mid century modern is still a large focus for us, we have now expanded to include any iconic 20th century designs including but not limited to art deco, art nouveau, hollywood regency, mid century modern, post modern, and even some contemporary.
We think it’s very important to be aware of the needs and availability in your community, particularly when dealing in consignment. The Cranbrook Educational Community has had a huge influence on furniture design on a global scale, and we are lucky enough that it is located only a few minutes away from our business. As a result, there is both a high quantity of iconic 20th century furniture in our area, and a large desire for those pieces as well. Finding your niche based on the assets of your community is essential to growing your business.
How did you build your audience on social media?
In our experience building your audience on social media requires a personal touch. Regardless of your business or industry, product or service, people prefer to view, follow, and interact with stories about other people. While we started by focusing our posts on our products, in time we learned that it was the stories about our staff, and our clients that followers responded most positively to. Our most viewed and favorited social media posts are videos of our movers unloading new inventory, our staff photographing and staging inventory around our showroom, and before and after photos of items coming from their prior home to us for consignment, or going from our showroom to the buyers home.