“Everybody said, ‘No don’t take it, nothing ever survived in that space,’ but I thought I could make it work,” Patty Ross says, thinking back to when she bought the three storefronts on 9th Street in Boulder that are now Clutter Consignment.
That was 2009, and she is more than happy to have proved the naysayers wrong.
Before Clutter Began
Patty started out with an accounting degree from the University of Michigan and went to work for National Cash Register in sales in Atlanta. She had major hospitality accounts and franchisees and pretty soon two daughters as well.
Her husband worked for IBM and both of them traveled. When it was clear that life was way too hectic, she says she “eagerly volunteered” to be the one to give up work and became a full-time mom. After her third daughter was born the whole family relocated to Boulder.
They left Atlanta in the middle of a January blizzard and when they landed in Denver it was 70 degrees and sunny. “We knew we were exactly where we needed to be,” she laughs.
Time to Do Something Different
After a two-year stint in Paris (they kept their house so they could return to it) she came back to the U.S. with a different perspective. “I had the same friends, but I was no longer sure where I fit in. I decided I needed to get a part-time job.”
Patty went to work at Feather Thy Nest, a consignment store on the east end of Pearl Street. Consignment appealed to her, and when she was ready to get into the business herself, she started looking at possible spaces. Back then, Boulder wasn’t booming like it is now, so she had some choice.
Taking the Plunge into Small Business
The three conjoined stores on 9th all had slightly different characters; varying wood floors, or concrete walls, or a tin ceiling. She instantly saw the possibility of working with the space with minimal renovations. “We had to bust out a wall, put in the checkerboard floor, install the sink, paint the walls turquoise in the kitchen area.”
When it came time to acquire her initial stock, Patty emailed her friends who emailed their friends…and so on. They were full the day they opened.
She had a vision from the beginning that she wanted a certain quality of item in the store. “I vowed when I opened Clutter that I would never have a $99 sofa because it would devalue everything else around it.”
Hitting the Ground Running
Patty was mostly excited and a little nervous to launch Clutter. She definitely had the sense of responsibility that comes with running a small business, but she also loved having her own store. “My husband reminds me to this day that I used to say, ‘Even if I had to work for free, it would be worth it!’ ”
Clutter has been profitable from Day One. Patty says she’s part business owner, part psychologist. A lot of people are dropping off personal treasures and long-loved items at Clutter’s front desk, and Patty understands how hard it can be to let these things go. “I tell people that this thing has brought them so much joy, and now they’re passing it on so someone else can feel the same joy.”
Clutter assigns prices based on inventory and their expertise and keeps things for 60 days. If items don’t sell, the seller has the option to either come back at the end of the selling period and retrieve their treasures or let them be donated to hospice.
Christmas Every Day
Patty and her staff love to arrange the store into vignettes and make their customers’ loved items look their best. “It’s so much fun: it’s like Christmas every day in here. And I really feel like businesses like mine are doing a service to the world. If we didn’t do this, all this stuff would end up in landfills.”
Patty always hopes that when people drop something off at Clutter it frees up some personal space inside them.
She has 6,000 consignors currently on her books, a clear indication that lots of us are doing our level best to simplify, de-clutter, and streamline.
Or maybe, shhhh!, simply make room for more cool stuff.