Photographs by ChiChi Ubiña
The Local Vault is an online home décor company based in Greenwich, Connecticut that sells second-hand furniture and other home décor. Sitting down to speak with the three partners who run the company, Julie, Betsy, and Patricia, at Betsy’s beautifully decorated home in Riverside, Connecticut, I ask them about their concept for this local, online business and where they see it going in the future.
A Clean Business Model
The three have just returned from an early morning shoot. They walk me through that process of photographing items to appear on their website. First they go to the client’s house for a preview of the items that they want to sell. Then, they return for a photo-shoot with lights, backdrops, and props.
Due to the level of service that The Local Vault provides, a seller must have a minimum of ten pieces to sell.
The Local Vault will not take just anything. Patricia clarifies, “We really curate our site… we want things in very good condition.” However, they will accept antique pieces that are a little “banged up” and always keep their eyes out for “wonderfully lined” upholstery pieces.
The site is perhaps most attractive due to its appealing pricing. The Local Vault is very conscious of their costs, sticking to what these women proudly call a “clean business model.” They have very little overhead, with few employees, and no warehouse or storefront and therefore The Local Vault doesn’t pass along that financial burden.
Their location, which they call a “sweet spot,” is also helpful. As Betsy explains, “we live in an area where people love to redecorate… renovate… buy new homes, there is an endless supply of really great inventory here, and we’re fortunate that way.” This means that there are great pieces, and sometimes for extremely low prices, because the seller is simply happy to move the piece quickly.
“White Glove Service”
It is important to understand The Local Vault provides more than just a platform for selling furniture and décor items. They provide what they call “White Glove Service.”
Betsy explains that the seller doesn’t have to do much “beyond making a phone call” to The Local Vault, providing them with whatever information is available on the pieces being sold. She says, “they don’t have to think about it from then on because we handle… shooting the sale, getting it all up, doing all the copy… the purchase and the delivery. From start to finish… It’s a cinch!”
According to their website, after a sale, The Local Vault “retains 40% of the net sale proceeds (calculated on the sales price, excluding sales tax).” What are the advantages for the seller using The Local Vault over some of the well-known online market places and traditional consignment shops?
For one, these women explained how shipping, for furniture especially – because of the cumbersome size and weight and even delicate nature of many of the pieces – is a difficult and costly process. The Local Vault removes this problem.
When selling with consignment shops, Betsy explains, “you have to pay to get your item to the consignment store, and they may or may not sell it.” Additionally, “they’ll donate it before you realize it, and then you’ve lost possession of it. So part of what makes us appealing is that our clients keep possession of the items until they are sold. So you know exactly what the status of your things are.”
The three partners have backgrounds that span event planning, customer service, branding and merchandizing, apparel, writing, design consulting, and of course home décor. They now spend their time making second hand pieces appealing in all ways possible, and the buyers can rest assured that there are no tricks involved!
Betsy walked me through the process, explaining, “if we have someone who is selling, for example, a console, we come in and we create a vignette [around the console] – an inspiration shot – so we might move things around, bring in a few accessories, and show people how they could use it another way. Our inspiration shots give people a lot of ideas.” Breathing new life into the item in this way is beneficial to the seller, but also beneficial to the buyer because it suggests ways in which the piece could be used.
After photographing a piece, either Betsy or Julie will research the history of the piece and write about it on the website so that the buyer knows that they are buying a story along with the piece. This makes the transaction more interesting for both parties.
Julie explains that she thinks what distinguishes them most from their competitors is the attitude they bring to their work ethic: “From the very beginning, we made a vow that we were never going to take ourselves too seriously. That every day that we woke up to do this we were going to do it and have fun with it, and I think we’ve been true to that mission statement… We try to provide a fun experience for [the people who buy and sell with us].”
Local, Local, Local!
No online vendor without local roots would be able to provide the services that this company does at such low costs. However, their local aspect also adds to the feeling of trust surrounding their company. Sellers can rest assured knowing that the team arriving to photograph their belongings is part of the community. According to Julie, “because we’re local, and because we really do get to know our clients… they trust us. There are so few degrees of separation.”
These women interact personally with all of their clients to a great extent, and Patricia claims, “even though we’re an online presence, it feels like we have like a store, a local storefront. Because we’ve cultivated clients”
The Local Vault takes the meaning of local far beyond that as well. Patricia describes how, in addition to their main focus, they want to support the local community: “We want to give a platform to local vendors. Vendors and local artists and people that don’t have their own brick and mortar, and don’t have the ways and means, truthfully, to put up their own website.” This includes their featured artists page and some other artists, artisans and jewelers often featured on their site.
The Local Vault has now brought these services to the nearby towns of Westchester, Chappaqua, Rye, New Canaan, Wilton, Darien, Briarcliff Manor, “the New York metropolitan area,” and most recently the Hamptons.
The Next Steps
Coming soon to The Local Vault website is a Wishlist feature, with which buyers will be able to go on the site and request to be notified when a certain item or type of item becomes available.
Perhaps most exciting are their plans for future partnerships. They have already partnered with Apadana Rugs, and have partnerships coming soon with décor stores who typically don’t run sales, in Westport and Greenwich. The Local Vault manages the sale for them through their chic online platform.
Keep checking The Local Vault for exclusive sales from exciting home décor stores.
Visit The Local Vault website at http://thelocalvault.com/
Contact Patricia, Betsy, Julie, and The Local Vault at:
Patricia Espinosa: email@example.com
Betsy Perry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Rubich: email@example.com