Gloversville consignment shop Panache still going strong after two decades

Deb Sauber has operated the Gloversville consignment shop Panache for 20 years. She no longer sells some of the stock via eBay but does put photos of select items on the store’s Facebook page. (CHARLES ERICKSON/FOR THE LEADER-HERALD)

GLOVERSVILLE — The consignment shop Panache is one of two businesses Deb Sauber launched simultaneously at 101 N. Main St. in Gloversville about 20 years ago. It has outlived its sister store by 18 years.

In 2003, a café called The Glass Onion operated on the sidewalk level while the consignment shop was downstairs. The owner was up and down the stairs dozens of times every day the twin shops were open.

“It was a lot of fun and you could make a ton of money around here doing food,” Sauber recalled, standing behind the sales counter of Panache on a recent Saturday afternoon. One person was browsing the aisles while carrying a small dog in her arms. She continued, “But you’re never going to spend it because you don’t have any time.”

The Glass Onion closed after two years, Panache relocated upstairs, and Sauber settled into the quieter, less hectic role of owning and operating a consignment shop.

“This all started out as a whim,” she said.

Panache carries apparel and accessories for men and women. Sauber insists on contemporary casual wear that looks and smells new. She said she regularly turns away hopeful consigners if they offer items which are unfashionable, were purchased new from big-box retailers or are too formal for the store’s theme. No wedding dresses, please, and no clothing from decades past.

“I don’t do vintage,” Sauber said, “because it’s a small market here and there’s not a huge market for that stuff.”

Fingering through the tabs of the alphabetized expandable folder which keeps track of sellers, the proprietor estimated about 120 people were consigning merchandise in the store during the first week of January. That number, she said, fluctuates slightly throughout the year.

“I get a lot of the same people doing both, not only shopping but also consigning,” Sauber said.

The customer with the dog, Mary Beth Francisco, put the animal down and then set a pair of low-cut black boots onto the sales counter.  

“I just put these out there,” Sauber said.

“I like them a lot,” Francisco replied.

Francisco said she had also consigned items in Panache, but none of her merchandise was on the racks that day. She had driven over from Johnstown.

“I just like to stop by once in a while because there’s always something new,” Francisco added.

The inventory in Panache is generally priced from $5 to $50. Sauber said some frequent shoppers will come in regularly but only spend $10 per visit.  Other customers — perhaps people with summer homes she only sees once or twice a year — will bring products worth $150 to the checkout counter during their stops.

“It’s as iffy as everything else,” Sauber said.

The Helpers Thrift Store, a church-affiliated enterprise, has operated next door to Panache for years. “I don’t know if it was a blessing or a curse,” Sauber said, chuckling, “but it is what it is.”

She said she sends browsers and consigners to the thrift store if she does not have what they are looking for, or has no interest in carrying what they have offered for sale.

There is a 90-day limit to display merchandise at Panache, and Sauber has the option to mark down the price of goods not sold after 60 days. For items priced below $39.99, she splits the sale proceeds with the consigner. When goods sell for $40 and up, the consigner gets 60% of the price and Sauber gets the rest.  

Sauber has learned through experience that it is easier when she sets a selling price.

“If you rely on people,” she said, “if you ask how much they think they want, you’re never going to get it because they think their things are very valuable.”

She gives the consigners an idea of the suggested price when they drop off the item. If they balk at Sauber’s suggestion, she normally declines to accept the consignment. There is only so much room on the store’s sales floor and Sauber tries to limit her stock to items that are the most likely to attract a buyer.  

If a consigner picks up an item before it has sat on the floor for 90 days, Sauber charges them a $1 hanging fee. After 90 days, consigners are given two weeks to retrieve their goods before the unsold merchandise is donated to a local charity. Sauber said most of her consigners choose not to pick up their items.

The owner of Panache said trade has recovered from the low levels experienced after she reopened from a self-imposed, three-month COVID-19 shutdown in 2020. Some months are better than others and some months the shop operates in the red. Even after 20 years of operation, it remains difficult for Sauber to make forecasts and projections about the business she chose to keep open when she shuttered the café in 2005.

“I just go with the flow of whatever happens,” she said.  “You pretty much have to. You can’t be down here and expect to make a ton of money.”

By Charles Erickson

Leave a Reply