BISBEE— If you are someone who enjoys finding treasures and appeasing your sense of upcycling while helping the community at the same time, you may want to check out Jo’s Consignment.
Shawn and Jo Eddington started the nonprofit Bisbee Community Outreach and developed a niche business in the old mining town thanks to the community that supports them and their endeavor to give back. The Verhelst Recovery House, the Bisbee Coalition for the Homeless and the Friends of the Bisbee Animal Shelter all have benefited from purchases over the past two years.
They could not have initiated such a store at a worse time. They opened in January 2020, just a few months before the COVID-19 lockdown that forced some business owners to close their doors permanently.
Jo said, “It was rough being closed for those six weeks because we were not ‘essential.’ I disagree with that. But, we were fine.”
Their business model and her wise financial management brought them through the rough times. Jo has extensive experience in retail management. She has worked for Disney, Alaska’s Savers Value Village chain of thrift stores and other large corporations.
“Shawn and I wanted to come up with a business model that would be self-sustaining and help the community financially,” said Jo. “Those particular nonprofits are near and dear to our hearts. Especially the animal shelter. We gave them some financial help recently when they ran into some trouble.”
She was referring to a recent tsunami of ill cats and kittens taken from an animal hoarder in Old Bisbee. The Bisbee animal shelter scrambled to find foster homes to help house the infected felines.
The store inventory is fed by caring community members who donate items they no longer need, a wide variety artists who want to sell their works and folks who bring things in on consignment. Shawn, who is well versed in what items are worth, also purchases home goods and such for the store.
“They can just bring donations in or I can pick them up,” said Shawn. “And they can do that at any time. I will also pick up things like furniture if the person doesn’t have a way to get them here.”
What’s in the store is just the tip of the iceberg. They have a warehouse where Shawn stores items until they have room in the store. It is a constant change of goods that keeps people coming back time after time, said Jo.
“When we do a buyout of everything in the house, we need some place to put it all. He is excellent in doing that,” Jo said.
“I like to keep the inventory something different, something fun,” said Shawn. “And, I like to work with local crafts people. Currently we have 16 artists. One is the woman who makes quirky little sock monkeys. We have essential oils, funky little wind chimes made from high heels, a painting of John Lennon, painted furniture, all made by local people. We like to showcase their work.”
There are 176 different consignments in the store, Jo said.
“In the beginning, I thought we’d end up with a lot of costume inexpensive jewelry,” Jo said. “But, people are putting out a lot of high-end jewelry. We’ve got the best selection of Bisbee turquoise jewelry this side of Tucson.”
Shawn said, “It’s high-end jewelry, but not at high-end prices. One thing we always try to do is to keep the prices as reasonable as possible. We can certainly do that with donated items. For consignment, people are good at lowering the price a little to help our nonprofit. That is a fabulous thing. And if I get a good price on something I purchase, I pass along the good deal.”
Their online business also sells goods for less than one would expect, offering a savings of 50% or more compared to other sellers, he said.
Jo added, “We try to keep things at Bisbee prices not Scottsdale.”
Other shops come looking for bargains to sell in their stores, which shows Jo’s Consignment prices are low.
“I’m happy to do that all day, because that way everybody succeeds,” said Jo.
Online shopping has been a big boon. People see what’s available on the Facebook page and give them a call. They send photos and boom, more sales.
“The Facebook advertising has gone way beyond what I thought it was going to do,” said Jo. “We have shipped items to Texas, Louisiana, Connecticut, Maine, Ireland and all over the states. “I have no idea how people are finding us or why they look at a Bisbee page. I was floored.”
Some donated items that are more suited for a thrift store end up at Your Thrift Store right across the street, and other places with a need, said Shawn.
“Jo’s really good at knowing what they need,” he said. “When the store receives animal-oriented things that could benefit the animal shelter, they give the proceeds to FBAS.”
Donated clothing may also go to BCH and VRH.
“The Verhelst House desperately needed financial help as well as the Coalition,” said Jo. “The Coalition provides a needed service and it has an 85% success rate. It’s not just feeding people, it’s retraining, putting them in touch with social workers. It’s the whole give a fish, teach to fish kind of thing. I love what they do. They do a fabulous job.
“The consignment of the business came from the knowledge that Bisbee is an eclectic, unique community of people who have a lot of stuff from different places. And a lot of people here are on fixed incomes. Most are retired. So, we thought it would be a great economic stimulus for those who live in the community.”
Shawn noted, “With Jo’s experience in retail, we thought this was the way to make the largest impact to the community. VRH also has a great success rate, around 85% to 90%. Their nine-month program is fabulous. They provide everything for those going through recovery. Those clients keep in touch with the case workers years after release from the program. We’re glad to be able to support that.”
The store does not charge a percentage for items on consignment. Jo said the person sets the price and they add a small amount to help with expenses.
Over the past 11 months, the Eddingtons put $115,000 back in the pockets of consigners and that money goes right back into the Bisbee economy, she said. Another $23,000 went to the three charities.
“We’ve already surpassed last year,” added Jo. “We had a nice increase for the second year. Way better than I ever expected.”
Shawn said, “It’s going really well. We’ve been very successful. And that’s due to the community and their donations.”
The Eddingtons ran Your Thrift Store, which benefits the low income housing of the Community Y, across the street and were instrumental in cleaning and rejuvenating the interior making it more shopper friendly.
The opportunity arose on the building across the street and the couple took it and created their own store
Jo came to Bisbee after a suggestion of a friend who told her to check it out.
“I never heard of Bisbee,” she said. “But, there is a big connection between Alaska and Bisbee. A lot of people come down here. I miss the fishing, but my knees are happier here. I was planning on moving to Bend, Oregon, where I have some friends, but I came here, checked it out and here I am.”
Shawn, a Bisbee resident for the past eight years and a former contractor in town, also came to Bisbee to check it out.
“I love it here,” he said.
They met and hit it off and the rest is history.
They are looking forward to the holiday shopping ahead and hope people drop by to look around the store’s inventory and discover items that will be perfect gifts under the tree.