When designers are looking to add some personality to a room, they know to stop in at Boston Consignment. “Designers can spot a well-named piece from across the store,” says Sheila Ryan Roy, who owns the business with her husband, Real Roy.
And homeowners are learning the same thing. The North Beverly store is full of items you’re unlikely to find anyplace else, spanning eras from the 17th century to last week. Shoppers could find anything from a numbered lithograph by Peter Max for under $500 to a spectacular Baccarat crystal Mille Nuits chandelier from a home in Beacon Hill for $10,650. But don’t think you’ll walk in and necessarily find either of these specific treasures. Inventory moves fast and the couple has “limitless” storage, trucking new pieces in as soon as there’s space in their shop.
“I like to think of it as recycling high-end goods,” says Sheila, whose eye for beautiful pieces lends the store a jumbled charm. Unlike an antique store, Boston Consignment carries a mélange of goods—a modern lamp, new with tags, might rest on an 18th-century chest, while a mid-century modern Formica tulip table displays a silver platter laden with crystal from the 1800s.
With people constantly in flux these days, whether they are professionals relocating for a business opportunity, empty nesters who are downsizing, or folks who are just wholesale redecorating, there is no shortage of folks looking to offload precious items—anything from a set of heirloom dishware to a whole house full of furniture. The Roys can arrange to pick up items, and consignors get a check for half of the sales price when an item finds a new home. The only hard part of running a consignment shop is having to tell people “no,” Sheila says. “We try to explain, as gently as possible, that if your daughter doesn’t want it, and your cousin doesn’t want it, it’s unlikely that someone will want to buy it.”
The Roys themselves are ample evidence of the transient nature of things—they relocated their business to the North Shore in January to be closer to family, after 17 years first in Fairfield, Connecticut, then more recently in Needham. And they even started their original Fairfield business in part with pieces from their former residence in Beacon Hill.
The couple finds their new location a good fit. Where they nestled in a strip mall between a yoga studio and a karate dojo, many locals drop in after class just for a quick peek.
“It’s really good karma,” Sheila says with a laugh. “Now we’re a neighborhood shop for Hamilton and Wenham as well.” But their reach extends far beyond neighboring towns. Continuing ties to Fairfield, an affluent community about 90 minutes north of Manhattan, mixed with roots in Beacon Hill, means a wealth of consignors from all over trust the couple to handle their precious pieces. And buyers from all over carefully stalk the shop’s social media sites, run by the couple’s daughter, Stacey Lai. A buyer in Germany recently purchased a mirror, someone in Denver scored some gold and porcelain dishware, and a buyer in Texas has made several purchases, including some very heavy crystal blocks.
“Instagram is the star of the show,” says Sheila. “It is a marketplace.” As important as social media is, though, what she really values is the social interactions. “We’ve made a lot of friends,” she says. “We get to hear the stories of people’s lives.” And the Roys are happy to share, where appropriate, with buyers, who also love to hear the provenance of things. In addition to recording family stories, the Roys also do extensive research to value pieces appropriately. While the history is always interesting to buyers, though, that’s not always the story they want to tell. “Sometimes people like to act like an item was their grandmother’s,” Sheila says with a laugh. “It was someone’s grandmother’s, after all.”
Become a Consignment Pro
Sheila Ryan Roy offers some hot tips for shopping consignment.
Ask for the history of the piece.
Many consignment shop owners are history buffs, and carefully research each item they sell. “We love the stories and we love to share what we can,” Roy says. So maybe a young soldier was overseas during World War II and brought that floral Herend candlestick home in his bag. Or maybe there was a juicy divorce (though Roy would never name names), and he got the Steuben and she got the Waterford. “You are still the winner,” she says. “The happiest customer is one who walks out with a piece they love and a story to tell about it.”
Ask if there is a “best price”
“Prices can change in a day,” Roy says. “Consignors change their expectations sometimes, and we can pass it along.”
“The best items go fast,” Roys says—so make sure you check all online sources often, especially if you’re looking for something in particular. Boston Consignment lists items on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Then call or buy online, if it’s something you can’t live without. And visit often. “The delivery truck may just be pulling in,” Roy says. “The timing is unpredictable.”
Give the store a wish list
Seeking something specific? Leave a list of items you are seeking, and they’ll call you if they find a match. “Wish lists are great,” Roy says. “One customer tried to hug me over the phone when I called about a sofa that had just arrived.”