For years, the commercial jingle for Kellie’s Consignments was “Expect the Unexpected,” pointing to the unique, quality finds in the store on Marsh Road in Okemos. In no way did owner Kellie Johnson ever imagine that would be the motto for navigating her business through the strange twists of 2020. 517 Magazine sat down with Johnson for a Q&A.
It was clear the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected your business. You were a very vocal business owner passionate about wanting to reopen safely. Looking back, how do you feel about how things went the first few months following the pandemic?
The first month was one of the scariest, with my business completely shut down. There were a lot of “what ifs” and “what abouts.” What if we can’t recover? What if my employees can’t pay their bills? What if people forget about us? What about me? It was very unsettling for business and personal reasons. The break from the daily grind was nice at first, and then I got smart. I used the time to completely reorganize our entire operation.
How has your business bee affected by the novel coronavirus overall?
The pandemic has changed the face of retail and resale. We struggled to sell online because we often only have one of each item — it is very hard to afford the labor it takes to list one item at a time. Our retail business was down 60% going into the fourth quarter. We made up some of that deficit by doing estate sales during quarantine using Facebook Marketplace and porch pickups. Now we are doing so many estate sales that we are doing OK — not great, but we will survive. The grants and stimulus monies were extremely helpful; now to worry about paying them back when the payments start.
How have you pivoted to allow safe shopping at your location?
Our building is 24,000 square feet, so social distancing is simple. Everyone must wear a mask or face shield. We have shields at our registers, hand sanitizer available and we do extra cleaning. Our new website is up and the e-commerce part is really slick and easy. We are also doing online-only auction selling, which is a great complement to our estate sale business.
You have some exciting, positive things in the works. Can you tell our readers more?
We have exciting news. I have recently purchased Wonder Women Estate Sales from Barbara Jersey. We acquired her entire operation, which includes two storefronts in Old Town. This space will be chic, hip and loft-like. Artsy, mid-century, modern, boho — I mean, really rad. Watch for Kellie’s Wonder Women coming to a street near you.