Online Furniture Consignment With a Fabulous Twist
"Previously Owned By A Gay Man" is more than just a funny name. It's an aesthetic, and it might be a game-changer.
"I mean, who doesn't want a sassy, gay best
friend to help you decorate?" says Michele Hoefherr, a commercial and fine-art photographer by trade who, only
a few scant months ago, launched a daring new approach to consignment shopping:
a carefully curated website populated with "decor with pedigree" that the
very-very rich can't be bothered selling, and the aspirational rich crave. The name? Previously Owned By A Gay Man.
Hoefherr's inspiration came from her friend Douglas, a painter who was her own sassy cheerleader when they were both in their 20s. Hoefherr was a talent agent; Douglas was working his way through fine-art graduate school in the mailroom. They could not have predicted where their partnership would lead.
"I've watched Douglas and his partner reinvent their space time and time again, and too often I saw him give fabulous items away to people who didn't even know what had landed in their laps," she says. "He can't be bothered with eBay or Craigslist, and those sites can be so ephemeral anyway." The day you decide to look for an Eames chair or a Holkotter floor lamp might not be the day someone decided to list such an item. There was most definitely a niche for those with good taste and a limited budget.
"'Recommerce' has started to be a big buzzword since I came up with the idea a year ago," says Hoefherr. Indeed, Chairish is a similar recent launch, but there's room for more than one online decor consignment store. For one thing, POBAGM skews younger; for another, it's more tightly curated, with a quicker turnaround. And then there's the design: clean, fresh, with kicky illustrations by Melanie Peterson reminiscent of the J. Peterman Catalog. And then there's that name: cheeky, daring and oh so very tongue in cheek.
"We're going for the younger, hipper urban person, maybe 25 to 40 years old, who has anchor pieces from Restoration Hardware and wants to hand-pick a few treasures to smarten up their first home," she says. The business model is based on the keen observation that we've grown used to buying just about everything online, researching with a few clicks to zero in on exactly what we want without leaving the house, and that furniture has lagged behind this trend. Go to your average couch emporium and you'll find a list of showrooms with the suggestion to shop in person, a foreign and undesired concept to your average modern shopper.
There's another hidden bonus on this site: original paintings, photography and prints by Hoefherr and the original Douglas in the "Art" section. She thinks this might be part of another possible platform: an online open studio of sorts.
Right now the business is housed in groovy Emeryville, adjacent to Oakland in the East Bay. "It's all happening now," says Hoefherr. "We're waiting to see what bubbles to the surface." Acting as the Dolly Levi between "just take it off my hands — but please, make sure it goes to the right person" and that grateful right person suits Hoefherr just fine.
And no, you do not have to be a gay man to sell on the site. You just have to have all the best qualities of that particular stereotype.