By Becky Harris
Yours Truly Consignment Shoppe is celebrating its 10th year this fall, and owner Cinda Ehren is grateful for the continued success of her Downtown Conway business labeled as "The largest in the South."
Back in October of 1999, Cinda was a Russellville homemaker looking for an enterprise that would involve the whole family. They drew on their expertise at finding "treasures" in unexpected places.
"My mother, Judy Rego, was a bargain hunter, and I learned from her," Cinda said.
The fun and excitement of finding bargains and treasures took them only so far, however.
Cinda calls herself an "accomplisher," and it was her organizational abilities that helped make the business double in size every nine months in the first years of operation.
Consignors and customers who became fans spread the good word about Yours Truly, and their word-of-mouth advertising has been the best boost for the business, Cinda said.
Yours Truly grew from one storefront, at 1052 Harrison, to three, and seven years ago they sold the children's portion to David and Tammy Free, creating Yours Truly Kids, Inc., all just around the corner behind Walgreen's.
Just this year the Frees closed a store they owned near Wal-Mart and combined it with the existing Kids store, doubling the size and putting it all under one roof, a wise move for David and Tammy, Cinda said.
Yours Truly, the original, sells men's, women's, teens', and maternity apparel and accessories. Yours Truly Kids sells clothing, toys, and gifts for newborns to children's size 20.
Contracts are thorough, spelling out responsibilities of the shops and the consignors.
With 13,410 consignors today, the original store has tens of thousands of items, each one computerized and color-coded to not only identify the item's color, size, and date of consignment, but also to identify the consignor by an assigned number.
Each item stays only 120 days in the shop, meaning the inventory turns over often, reflecting the current season.
"We keep track of the styles that sell, we keep the items looking as fresh and new as possible, and we work constantly to improve our method of organization.
"Because we are computerized, we can sell an item at one end of the counter and immediately pay out the consignor at the other end. It's 'pay on demand,' meaning the consignor may choose to be paid monthly or whenever they wish," Cinda said.
Items that don't sell by the allotted time are donated to charities, including foster care organizations, Conway Human Development Center, the Soul Food CafÃ© Mission, and Dress for Success, among several others. The consignor receives a list of the items given to charity and may include those as tax deductions.
Both stores have about eight employees each, and no matter their assignments, the workers are schooled in customer courtesy and the methods that have made the shops successful.
Because the shops appeal to "moms," they have kid-friendly play areas that keep the little ones occupied while mom is shopping.
A lot of attention is paid to the intake of items. Nothing damaged is put on the racks. Everything must be spanking clean.
The dÃ©cor is upscale by design.
"We want our shoppers to feel like they are visiting a department store, and we want our consignors to feel we are working hard to sell for them," Cinda said.
Yours Truly Kids has murals, painted by Tammy, with farm scenes on the walls near the older kids' clothing, and a zoo theme on the side with items for newborns and other little ones. An ornamented tractor and a painted Jeep are on display. "No climbing, please."
The consignment business was new to the area 10 years ago.
"We were willing to pour ourselves completely into this new business and work harder for ourselves than we ever had for others," Cinda said.
That still means six days a week. In the early years, because of a failed real estate transaction, the family - husband, wife, and three kids - lived in the back of the store.
"This was our home for a year. The kids might say today they didn't like it, but they have memories of holidays and other good times," Cinda said.
That sacrifice allowed them to pay off their loans and continue expanding.
Yours Truly is still about family.
Tammy handles all the daily activities while her husband, David, manages the books at Yours Truly Kids.
"Owning the business has been a dream come true for both of us," Tammy said.
Cinda's daughter, Jordan, 24, is now General Manager of Yours Truly. Makenzie, 17, and Logan, 19, work as needed.
"Jordan had lots of retail experience, and she was prepared to take over for me, giving me most of the summer off. That has been a blessing," Cinda said.
Cinda will use that extra time to write an operations manual and investigate franchising Yours Truly. Cinda believes such a franchise would be appealing to others willing to work hard for success in a family business.
Reflecting on the last 10 years, Cinda is proud of the business that began from scratch and grew to be a treasure.
"We certainly appreciate our consignors, our employees, and our customers, "she said. "We hope they will agree with our slogan: 'Let our 10 years of success be yours'."