When she talks about furniture, you can imagine Cheryl Klesaris draping herself over the antique wood with arms wide open inhaling the history of whatever piece she happens to be in love with this week.
On the other hand, her partner Scott Faber is more pragmatic about it. He takes a business approach to their shop.
You can say that they are the odd couple of consignment.
“Just don’t call it stuff,” Faber joked when talking about the hundreds of unique and antique items for sale at in Port Jefferson.
They’ve been together for four years now, since they met after Faber lost his wife and he had to sell everything in his home. Klesaris convinced him to sell it all on consignment. She also preserved some of the furniture in his house for family members who might want it for sentimental reasons.
Klesaris said that Faber didn’t think about saving anything at the time. He had little attachment to the things inside the home but he did appreciate the process of taking the contents of a house and selling them off.
Two years later they opened up their consignment shop, even moving into an apartment upstairs together to be close to the business in the building at 138 East Main Street built circa 1840.
Though they differ in their approach to the eclectic mix of items they pick up along the way, the couple agrees on many things about the business. One is that they strive to support local artists, selling pieces from over a dozen who live around Long Island.
Some of the original items in the store include large stones that a retiree from Mount Sinai collects from West Meadow Beach and then adorns with painted scenes. There is also the hand painted glass made by a retired Radio City Music Hall Rockette who lives in Baldwin. Or the birdhouses with façades assembled from little rocks off Cedar Beach by a woman from Coram.
“Most of them don’t sell in other stores,” said Klesaris. She calls them her “unfound artists.”
Another thing they agree on is that consignment is a good way for people to do some “green” shopping to find good deals. Long Island is admittedly an expensive place to live so people can always be counted on to appreciate a bargain.
Klesaris grew up in Port Jefferson, graduating from in 1981. For a time she lived in Massachusetts. One difference she noticed between New York buyers and people from other places is in their penchant for haggling, always looking for the best price.
“New Yorkers are such negotiators,” she said.
Customers come to the store from as far away as New York City and the Hamptons to look for that one piece that strikes their fancy, something they can’t find at the local department store.
“Consignment is a way to redecorate,” said Klesaris. “It’s a way to design in a green way.”
Many designers come in looking for ideas for clients. Some customers frequently come back to the store, taking time to consider exactly what they will buy or returning to see what’s new.
“Customers hem and haw before buying,” Klesaris said. “It’s like a museum”
And their buyers are from every extreme. They get tourists, decorators and people looking to furnish homes both big and small. , they say, also helps bring in some high-end customers who buy the bigger items.
“Big items pay the rent,” said Klesaris. She estimates that they have to sell one big item a month to stay on top of the bills. Though the mix of people buying big or small items is inconsistent.
“Some customers shop every week and don’t buy,” she said. “People are buying things that are functional. Need drives a lot of customers.”
Faber said that he never knows what will bring in the crowds.
“You don’t know what will happen,” he said about in-store sales. “On a rainy day we could be up.”
There’s inventory all over the store, inside and outside, upstairs and downstairs. In the basement, Faber has what he calls his “man cave” where he stores items that are either waiting to go upstairs on the floor or have just come in and need to be inspected or cleaned. This is where he reveals his passion for the business, the hands on work involved with taking a piece and making it ready for sale.
Surrounded by furniture–some of it over 100 years old–Faber says that the one thing that separates a consignment business from a thrift or antiques store is that the items they sell aren’t bought and paid for yet.
“Our inventory is free,” he said. “It’s a huge difference.”
That doesn’t mean that they’ll take in just any old thing. Faber says they are “very particular" in what they will take.
Klesaris will discuss with every potential client what will sell in their store. Most of the time a life-changing event spurs an estate sale like a death or moving into a nursing home. That’s when people who don’t want to deal with selling the contents of a home on their own start looking for an alternative. Money made on consignments sold through Home Again is split evenly between the store and the seller.
“I tell consignors, you’re not going to get rich doing this,” said Faber. “People can make enough money for a nice dinner at Paces to a few thousand dollars.”
Klesaris is quick to add that selling on consignment is better than on Craigslist.
“Consigners move the items better and at a better price than Craigslist,” she said. “Consignment is convenient.”
Home Again gets a lot of leads from Google searches. In fact, a majority of people find them through Google. Only about 10 percent of their leads come from real estate agents helping out their clients or estate sellers offloading items they didn’t move. There are no lack of sellers but getting a really good one is not easy.
“If I don’t love it, I can’t sell it,” she said.
Klesaris obviously develops an emotional attachment to the items that come in. Faber says she’s always sharing sob stories with the sellers over one or another item. They even had one woman who was selling an armoire who came back to the store to visit it until it sold. And then there are those items that she just doesn't want to sell.
Take the Foo Dogs from Belle Terre.
The Foo Dogs are small pieces also known as Temple Lion Dogs that are supposed to ward away spirits. Even though they estimate the Foo Dogs can fetch up to $5,000, Klesaris is reluctant. She got them from a Belle Terre pediatrician and fell in love with them. The Foo Dogs date back to the 1800s and the paperwork that came with the statues says they were imported into the U.S. in 1980.
“We’ve had some really cool things,” admits Faber.