My Sister’s House, a stylish semi-annual sale, pops up twice a year in Abilene.
Imagine my surprise as I stepped inside of this quaint downtown boutique, with its windows filled with the latest and the trendiest outfits, to find that it was a “pop up” consignment shop. I found shoes, organized by size, neatly waiting to be tried on. I walked farther into the store where I found racks of clothing, again, nicely arranged with clearly marked sizes and various displays of jewelry artfully arranged on stands. I had found my new favorite store, a semi-annual sale called My Sister’s House.
Summer and Kate grew up the same way as most children with siblings. They would often share or borrow each other’s clothes. As they grew older, the trend continued with not only clothes, but also furniture and household décor. They also loved to go out together and find good deals or unique items at estate sales or even garage sales. Both girls grew up wanting to be thrifty, yet stylish at the same time.
Kate was a baby and Summer was four years old when their parents decided to move back to Texas. They spent their childhood, teenage, and college years living in Abilene. Both of the girls attended Abilene Christian University. At ACU, they both found love. Summer met and married her husband, Chad, who is now a physical therapist at Hendrick Medical Center. Kate met and married Brandon, who is an assistant baseball coach at ACU.
Influenced by their father, who was a long-time English teacher with Abilene Independent School District, the girls both graduated with their teaching degrees in English. They both went on to teach English. Summer taught in El Paso and Coppell while her husband was attending graduate school, and Kate started teaching at Mann in Abilene. During this time, family planning was in the works and Summer had her first daughter, Ava.
Five years later, after 2 years of teaching at Mann and 3 years of teaching at Abilene High School, Kate had her daughter, Eydie. Once Kate had Eydie, she decided the long hours spent grading papers were not for her. Summer, who now had Ava and a son named Pierson and had moved back to Abilene, was a bit of a dreamer. Kate was the realistic one. Summer dreamed big and suggested a sale similar to the well-known local Abilene sale, Dittos for Kiddos.
Summer says, “While volunteering for Dittos for Kiddos, a mom said to me, ‘Don’t you wish we had a sale like this for us?’” This planted a seed that she shared with her sister Kate. They were constantly trading and borrowing each other’s clothes, furniture, and household items. She and Kate also participated in a small group swap with some girls from church. “We had light hors d’oeuvres and then we each took a turn picking out a few items,” shares Kate. “We decided we wanted to try it on a bigger scale.”
Together, they planned the sale that grew into My Sister’s House. Summer says, “We picked the name, My Sister’s House, because it was personal, something that people could identify with. Also, we loved the idea of sharing things from your closet, shopping each other’s houses.” She went on to add, “The concept also gave us room to add more rooms to the sale, not only the closet, but also the kitchen, the attic, and other various places from the house as we grew.”
They felt like Abilene was a good market. “People are smart and thrifty with money in Abilene,” says Summer. “We thought they might be open to shop in a different way. I also love the idea of recycling, and who can’t use a few extra dollars for things that are just sitting in the closet anyway.” She says, “In our own closets, we had sizes from 4-14 plus maternity from going through pregnancies and weight gain and loss. It occurred to me if we had this problem, there must be others having the same issue as well. If you could make money on something, and possibly find something else as well that doesn’t break the bank, it would be great.”
Their first sale was, by their own definition, experimental and small. Even though it was a new business venture, the girls didn’t want to take out any loans. Instead, they borrowed money from themselves. They created a simple website for the sale, wrote consignor tags by hand, and when the sale was finished, added up totals with an adding machine. “It was very tedious,” Summer says. “We had about 100 consignors.” Kate chimed in, “We said, ‘If it doesn’t work out, at least we will get to shop!’’’
Growing up in Abilene, the girls loved the Abilene downtown area. They wanted to support the downtown area and keep the sale upscale, so for each sale, they have rented the One-Eighty-One event and meeting center on downtown Pine Street in Abilene. Kate says, “It feels like a boutique when you walk into the building.” Summer adds. “We want to have affordable shopping, yet upscale, not like a garage sale.”
After their first successful sale, the girls decided to look into other sale models. “There were a lot of children’s sales to model after, so we bought into a program that was similar to our needs,” explains Summer. “We added on-line registration and entry, and scanners for the tags. After each sale, we look at how to accommodate growth.”
One of the nice things about the sale is working with each other. “Each sale there is something overwhelming that occurs that you have to figure out,” says Summer. “Fortunately, we get along well, our strengths balance out each other. Kate is good at managing people.” “And Summer has a creative eye,” adds Kate. “She is always good at placing items in a way that draws the eye to the windows or displays. She dreams and I am more of a realist.” “Kate keeps me grounded,” finishes Summer.
My Sister’s House would not be as successful without their volunteer base. “The first year, we didn’t have a strong volunteer base, and it was a lot harder,” says Summer. “Now we have volunteers that love to come back each year to help and meet up with others they had made friends with during previous sales. It is something people look forward to, a big event that only happens twice a year. Our volunteers have become a little community.”
The sisters still shop the sale themselves. “Inevitably, each year,” laughs Kate, “while we are shopping, we end up picking out a pair of shoes or an outfit, only to realize that it is each other’s!” Summer says, “I love to see how people repurpose things. People are constantly showing us their finds.” Kate agrees, “It is really neat getting to know our volunteers and our shoppers. I have people tell me they wait to shop at My Sister’s House.”
Not only does My Sister’s House sell clothes, they also have a great selection of jewelry, home décor, furniture, and kitchenware. “There is a lot to see,” says Summer. “Many of our customers are repeat customers of the same sale. They will shop furniture one day, and then another day, they will shop for clothes and accessories. Most customers also return the second week during our half off sale.”
Both girls agree on their favorite part of the sale. “Our favorite thing about the sale is what has grown out of it, our discount sale. The final Sunday of the sale, is the Discount Day Sale, where everything is 75% off,” explains Summer. “We don’t take a cut and all of that Sunday sales goes to support charities. We love that aspect because we wouldn’t be able to do that by ourselves. Giving back to the community itself is a perk for us.” My Sister’s House website shares that last year $1,890 was donated and divided amongst three non-profit organizations.
One of these organizations is called Liam’s Wells. A six-year old little boy named Liam, who, while he was sick with leukemia, had a vision to give others clean drinking water. In 2012, Liam lost his fight with cancer. Because of Liam’s vision, $50,000 has been raised to fund five wells, four in Kenya and one in Rwanda. Summer’s daughter, Ava, was friends with Liam, and this writer, who also has a daughter named Ava who was once in his class, will always fondly remember sweet Liam from Kindermusik. Liam’s mom, Amy, volunteers her time for the Discount Day Sale.
Another organization My Sister’s House supports is Eternal Threads, located in Abilene, who helps at-risk women and children in third world countries by selling their handmade goods. My Sister’s House has also helped an Afghan woman get a small business loan to open her own tailoring business. Abilene Young Life was the third recipient of the Discount Day Sale last year. They are an organization who supports and encourages our teens in Abilene in many ways, from supporting them at sporting events to sending them to summer camp.
The consignors get to choose whether they want to pick up or donate their items to charity. “We are able to give because of the consignors’ generosity,” says Kate. “They give and we are providing an avenue to get their gift to those organizations in need.” Those organizations include Faithworks, who helps empower and equip people in need of good employment. Faithworks has the opportunity to pick out business clothes for their graduates’ upcoming interviews and new jobs.
Two of the local high schools also benefit from My Sister’s House. The student councils of Abilene High School and Cooper High School pick out formals for girls who, otherwise, would not be able to attend prom. Christian Services Center, Love and Care Ministries, and Hope Haven are also some of the beneficiaries of clothes and items from My Sister’s House. Currently, twelve organizations benefit from the sale.
If that is not reason enough to consign with My Sister’s House, consider the other incentives. “Because it is an event,” says Kate, “we get a lot of traffic in a short amount of time. Consignors are able to make a higher percentage of their sales and get a check within 3 weeks.” Summer agrees, “There is a quick turnaround in profit. They also get the perks of shopping the pre-sale. They get the first pick of the fun finds we have each sale.”
My Sister’s house has only one problem. “It is growing faster every sale than we thought it would,” says Kate. “It is definitely a good problem,” says Summer with a smile. Summer and Kate are truly thankful for the help they receive from their mother, who lovingly cares for their children during each sale. “Each sale,” says Summer, “one of us has been either pregnant or nursing a baby. Our mother has stepped in to help us while we work the 12-15 hour days for 15 days straight during the sale.”
The next sale is scheduled in Spring 2013. The public sale dates are April 27-May 1 & May 3-5. Summer and Kate are looking forward to it as much as their shoppers and consignors. “I love to find something vintage,” says Summer. “My favorite look is eclectic. I love having something different.” At My Sister’s House, you can definitely find that and more. Most likely, you will end up with a full shopping bag, meet a few old friends, and come home as I did, with a bit of cash to spare.