OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Sustainability, innovation keep Corvallis consignment store thriving in hard times

11/01/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A Corvallis businesswoman and Oregon State University alum has watched her business grow over the past 26 years, and her business model has helped her not only survive the recession, but thrive in difficult economic times.

Nancy Kneisel, owner of Second Glance consignment shop in Corvallis, has been given the November “Orange Spotlight” award, which highlights businesses and organizations either operated by OSU alums and faculty or who employ a large number of Oregon State graduates. These businesses demonstrate a dedication to community service, sustainability and innovation.

Kneisel opened Second Glance in 1984, and in 2008 opened a second branch, The Annex, which is run by her daughter, Jessica. Clothing at Second Glance is selected for its quality, style and brand name, ensuring that no customer walks away feeling like they’re wearing hand-me-downs.

Kneisel got into the consignment business as a way to bring affordable fashion to everyone. She said growing up poor had a lasting effect on her life. Not only did her frugal mother teach her how to sew her own clothes, she gave her an appreciation for making the most with the little you have, and re-using resources.

Now that the recession is making even the most dyed-in-the-wool shopaholics think twice about spending money on fashion, her affordable yet fashionable re-sale clothing is being noticed by an ever-expanding customer base.

“I saw the economy tanking, and at the same time I saw a huge upswing both in the number of people coming into shop and the number of people bringing their clothes in to sell,” she said.

Kneisel’s work has paid off, as she was given the Robert C. Ingalls Business Person of the Year award at this year’s Celebrate Corvallis awards ceremony. She was also a finalist in the micro category for this year’s Excellence in Family Business Award, presented by OSU’s Austin Family Business Program.

Kneisel graduated from OSU in 1976 with a degree in English, history and art. She opened the store in 1984 after encouragement from her husband.

“It was really, truly a learn-as-you-go experience, and I’ve never stopped learning,” Kneisel said.

She’s taken small business courses at OSU, as well as consulting faculty members from the College of Business and the College of Health and Human Sciences. OSU has always been one of her most valued resources, both for support and information, but also for high quality students, many who are design majors, who have been employed at her shop over the years. It’s also a two-way-street, as Kneisel has invited business and merchandising classes to use her store for class projects and case studies. She gains insight, and the students have a living laboratory in their own back yard.

Kneisel makes sure her student employees put schoolwork first, and she also takes them to conferences sponsored by the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, where she’s been a long-time member and frequent presenter (including keynote speaker in 2007). She also does consultations and frequently teaches about creating and running re-sale stores.

Now, Kneisel has her eyes on opening a men’s version of Second Glace, with a location and details to be announced. She believes that a new-found American frugality, thanks to the economy, combined with a growing awareness that environmental resources are finite and that conspicuous consumption is dangerous, will make high quality re-sale even more important.

“Using something once is not enough. We really need to teach our youth to understand, “You don’t need 30 pairs of jeans,”” she said. “You need two really good pair, and I can help you find them.”

Find out more at the Second Glance blog: http://www.glanceagain.com