Millionaire Rejects: Lincoln Park's Ultimate Upscale Resale Shop
How’s this for a concept store: Carol Brody resells and consigns furnishings harvested from the storage lockers of Chicago’s wealthiest. Take a spin through this Lincoln Park designer trove, leave in euphoria, and rethink thrift shop.
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, hand-me-downs from the rich are different. “I’ve given them a place to bring their items,” says Millionaire Rejects owner Carol Brody, who scoops up high-end home furnishings and vintage goods from the Super Rich. The kind of folks with a $3,000 monthly storage bill. Did you do the math? That’s $250,000 in payments in five years. A significant expense even for a trust fund baby. Unlike the barking battles on Storage Wars, Brody’s wealthy clients are paid up but looking to prune, purge and consign. “It’s the best time to find things, during a purge or a second marriage,” says Brody who speaks in italics in a rat-ta-tat-tat cadence. Her's is a most sophisticated clientele and “they come in droves.” Believe it. In one building alone – the luxe 10 E. Delaware tower – she has 18 consigners and can expect French Normandy armoires and the like.
For a few hundred dollars or a couple of grand these cast-offs retain that expensive glow: A midcentury bar for $250. A pair of rustic end tables for $400. A Venetian mirror tagged at $1,800. A Baker buffet cabinet with pull-out leafs for $3,500. Poke around. Some items fetch bargain bin prices. Brody shows us a pic of a cushy chair that sold for $10 bucks. Want to sample first? Browse online at her Furnishly store. And to think this “business without a business plan” is the result of a derailed design career.
“I got stuck with these beautiful pieces I had in my own storage locker,” recalls Brody. All this … stuff was growing a fat bill. An idea thundered. An ironic one. She borrowed $10,000 of start-up capital from her mother. Thinking she could sell at least six pieces – “enough to make the rent" – took the vacancy down the block as a venue and opened as a “pop-up” shop on a 30-day lease. Short-term and seasonal businesses use this successful model and it’s become an effective retail strategy. It took chutzpah and it worked. Brody netted $26,000 profit her first month.
She moved into the two-story, 6,000-square-foot Armitage Avenue shop in 2009. “We were able to get presence in a prestigious area,” she emphasizes with a wink and a nod to neighbor and culinary maestro Charlie Trotter’s restaurant that critics salute as one of the finest kitchens on the planet. Millionaire Rejects might be a business without an inventory but it has a swelling supply. According to Time, the wealthy are splurging it up.
That’s good for her niche. Since the launch of her resale shop a number of knockoffs have sprouted, mimicking the idea. But Brody says 2013 is her year. “I’ve got some competition for the first time,” she admits. “I was nervous, but then I realized I was McDonald’s. There’s always going to be a Burger King or Wendy’s. But I’ve got the brand. I’m first.” Brody is prepared to deal, but do your talking with cash.
Millionaire Rejects is located at 1131 W. Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park. Closed Friday. Telephone: (312) 479-4143.