The recession’s been good for Melanie Diana and Such a Find Antiques–so much so that in December she was moving her shop from a house on Packard to a storefront in Colonial Lanes Plaza on South Industrial in the heart of Ann Arbor’s burgeoning “resale row.” The house worked fine for smaller pieces, Diana says, but the bigger items that antique hunters treasure and pay higher prices for wouldn’t make it into the house’s tiny rooms and through its thirty-inch doorways.
“You bring in stuff and it gets stuck in one room, so you bring it in the next room–I spend more time moving things around, from upstairs to downstairs to the basement!” Diana laughs. “I couldn’t buy certain pieces because I couldn’t fit them in my store.”
Such a Find started out six years ago in Georgetown Plaza, but had to relocate two years later because the mall’s owners wanted to tear it down and rebuild. The plan eventually collapsed, but by the time it became clear nothing would happen, Diana and the other tenants were long gone. “They wanted us to move out for a year, then move back in, when they would have raised the rent,” Diana says. “When they told all the tenants that, there was a mass exodus. [The idea of moving back] after being in limbo for a year was just really silly.”
Diana’s new store on South Industrial is actually smaller than the Packard house, but according to her, business is thriving. Selling antiques out of her showroom, she explains, accounts for just 10 percent of her business. The bulk of it–she estimates 60 percent–comes from conducting estate sales, and sales on eBay for her estate sale clients make up the other 30 percent. But Diana is quick to emphasize that she is not an eBay drop-off store; there’s one of those in Colonial Lanes Plaza already–Encore Online Resale opened there last October–and she won’t take eBay walk-ins because she doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Her eBay business is an offshoot of, and dependent on, her estate sale business.
When Diana handles an estate sale, she starts with an appraisal. Items worth more than most estate sale shoppers would pay–like sterling silver, gold, and rare pottery and antique toys–get listed on eBay. The rest is sold on site, with Diana overseeing the sale. Occasionally, she’s had to move entire estates to her store when the location–a small condo, for example–wasn’t suitable, or when the family can’t bear the thought of people rummaging through their loved ones’ things. “It’s less painful for them to just have me buy the estate,” Diana says. “Then they don’t have that painful image running through their heads.”
Whatever doesn’t sell is first offered to the family. Then what’s left over gets donated to a Troy-based charity called Grace Centers of Hope. Whatever Grace Centers won’t take goes to the Recycle Center in Ann Arbor.
She also does moving sales and what she calls “downsizing” sales, for older people moving from a house to a condo or retirement community, or for younger people who’ve lost a job and need to find a smaller space. That part of her business, she says, has really taken off over the last few years–not surprising in Michigan’s economy. Diana is often double-booked for sales on the weekends, with most of the business coming from referrals.
Though selling antiques from her showroom has been a small part of Such a Find’s business, Diana is hoping the new higher-profile location will make the store more of a moneymaker. Besides estate sales, she gets items from people who want to get rid of their grandmother’s ornate antique living room set, an aunt’s teacup collection, or their own mid-century modern dining room set. Diana carries a wide range of items, from antiques to vintage to contemporary–“whatever I think I can sell,” she says. Diana buys pieces outright, and doesn’t work on consignment.
Keeping a showroom was important to Diana for another reason: it gives her a local presence. “It gives a comfort to people to know that I’m a part of the community,” Diana says. “Because [estate sales are] a trust business. They’re trusting me with their family’s treasures. They know they can come to me, and they know they can call me anytime.”
Such a Find Antiques, 1954 South Industrial in Colonial Plaza, 730-6266. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sun. suchafindestateliquidation.com