Dave and Nancy Gardner, proprietors of the popular JuliaClaire of Preston, are making a big move… right next door. But it is, indeed, a big move for them. No longer renting, they are the owners of their new domain. The couple purchased the former “Uncommon Charm” building at 152 Main Street. It took a year and a half to finalize the deal and the new owners are so grateful to Bill and Melody Stockton, the sellers, for their patience during the process. Doors will be open for business on October 24. With this purchase JuliaClaire gains a corner location with lots of windows – more visibility, more light, and an even better fit for their merchandise.
The building JuliaClaire left is for sale or rent. When the owner was ready to sell the building she asked Nancy and Dave if it was ok to put up a For Sale/For Rent sign in front of the shop. “Of course,” they said. But ever since the signs went up people stop in asking worriedly if JuliaClaire will be closing. “No,” Dave assures them, “JuliaClaire plays an important role in the community and we love being able to provide this service. Although it’s not a money maker,” he confides, “it’s the perfect job for me in retirement.” His favorite part is interacting with customers and knowing that he’s serving his community. Dave likes to say, “I left a five-day-a-week job and now I work six.” Nancy adds, “We also love it because Dave and I get to work together.”
Nancy Gardner recalls that the person who started the business named it after her two daughters, Julia and Claire. Nancy always liked the shop and started volunteering there back in 2010. Following five years of volunteering, in April of 2016, the Gardners bought the business and made it their own, but they kept the name.
“This must be what we’re meant to do,” says Nancy. “Shortly after we took over, a man from Lanesboro called needing to liquidate everything in his home. We got a whole house full of merchandise to sell.” Since then, there have been other windfalls. A couple and their three young children were downsizing, moving from a house to a yurt. A yurt is a domed circular structure with a design that was originally used by nomadic cultures in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey. Yurts apparently don’t come with a lot of storage. Nancy remembers, “The yurt lady brought in tote after tote of belongings she couldn’t keep. It was a lot of good merchandise.” More recently, Peggy Bjortomt, owner of Harmony’s “Old Ways, New Ideas” shop, sold her business and brought over truckloads of items to consign at JuliaClaire, including some Falconwear. As circumstances change for people in the area, the Gardners have received a lot of high quality items to display and sell and have collected the stories right along with the things.
The store is probably 99% consignment. The other 1% is housewares, trinkets, seasonal items and school supplies. “JuliaClaire has changed to fit our location and our clientele,” explains Dave. “This is the place to go nearby for clothing — quality clothing, at really low prices,” he continues. “There are still a couple artisans who sell their wares with us — a woman who makes Amish rugs and another that creates knit items, scarves, hair barrettes…but mostly we’re consignment.” Consignment items range in value but all should be a good deal. There is furniture, and much more than can fit in the shop at one time. While many items are inexpensive, they once had a guitar that sold for $500 and a sewing machine that brought $900. Dave also recalls a really nice mountain bike that came in. A tourist saw it and wanted it. After leaving and coming back she said she had looked up the bike online. She wouldn’t pay the marked price but if she could prove that a lower price was fair, she asked, would JuliaClaire sell it to her. She walked away with the bike. “Who would have guessed that there’s a Blue Book for bikes?” laughs Dave.
It’s an interesting business with a lot to learn. Dave has learned about watches, which fascinate him, jewelry, clothing, and more, discovering that just about anything can be found on the internet. The Gardners never know what they’ll get. Dave says, “You’ll find we have a little bit of everything and a lot of some things.”
JuliaClaire relies on its dedicated cadre of volunteers. “Everyone who works here is a volunteer,” says Nancy, “and every one of them is important to us.” Volunteers sometimes get a Nancy-inspired nickname. “When I first started volunteering,” she says, “there was a Jan, a Janice, and a Janet. It was too much for me so I created nicknames.” And nicknames have become a tradition. There’s Rosie (Rosary), and Rachel (Raquel), for example. Volunteers also include Poppy, Diana, Darwin, Crystal, Roxanne, Ken, Sandy, Helen, Zeke and Bob. Both of Nancy’s parents, Bob and Marge Wherley, have been wonderfully supportive from the very beginning. Nancy says with all her heart, “Thank you!!” Everyone here plays a different but critical role in the operation. For example, Poppy manages the back where items come in. She’s 82 years old, a beautiful person, and she comes here every day and stays all day. Ken is the muscle man, Darwin is the builder, Rachel comes in before going to work and does whatever needs doing up front. Bob takes the things JuliaClaire’s can’t sell to where they will find new homes, he also puts the batteries in all the watches, and more. Diana’s specialty is straightening bins and the “dump table.” One volunteer brings her baby and he hangs out when she’s working in the back.
Most of the people who shop at JuliaClaire are locals, says Dave. “Many of them come in regularly. It’s a nice walk for a lot of people and there are those that just like to get out and come see us. Now and then they find something they like and buy it.” Our consigners, who know they have high quality items they no longer need, have a place to bring them and get money for them. To be a consigner is easy. “Just come in and ask,” says Dave. There is an agreement to sign and a decision on what you’ll take for the item. Items have to be saleable – clothing on hangers or laid flat, clean, no excessive wear, nothing musty or smoky smelling. Consigners receive 30% of the price the item sells for. Consigners also get a 10% discount on their purchases at JuliaClaire in appreciation.
Probably 80% of the clothing is women’s, including business wear. “Men usually wear their clothing until it wears out… or until their wives make them get rid of it,” Dave says with a smile, “so you don’t see as much on consignment for them.”
What feels good is that people like having us here,” says Dave. “People thank us for what we do,” Nancy adds, “and that makes us happy.”
JuliaClaire, now at sunny 152 Main Street, is open Monday — Friday from 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. — 4p.m. They are open for business in their new location as of October 24, but will have a Grand Opening Celebration on November 6. The celebration goes all day, 10 a.m. — 6 p.m., with hot cider, cookies, special opening sales, and a raffle for shoppers. You should stop down, but JuliaClaire’s number is (507) 765-2399 just in case you have questions.