Last October, Laura Chaulk walked into Snazzy Seconds to sell a table and chairs. She ended up buying a store.
It wasn’t her first visit or her first try at purchasing the popular Orleans, Ontario home decorating consignment shop.
A savvy consignment shopper, Laura had been thrilled to discover the store when she moved back to the area several years ago. “If you ever want to sell…” she remembers commenting, only half-seriously, to then owner Laurence Way.
She was dead serious though when she said it again, last fall. And this time, she could tell from the way Laurence’s eyes lit up that something had changed.
Laura came in at the right time, says Laurence, but I couldn’t tell anyone I was selling.
“Customers can start to worry if they hear that a place is up for sale… is their money still there.”
Back home, Laura went searching the web for local businesses for sale. Finding Sunbelt Business Brokers, she emailed Greg Kells, asking if a specific business he had listed was in fact Snazzy Seconds. But Greg, president of Sunbelt Canada, would only confirm that it was “a business in the east end”.
Christmas came and went and the store was still on her mind. Returning there in the new year, Laura repeated her question. Again, Laurence avoided answering. Laura phoned her away from the store, to ask her outright–is it or is it not for sale? This time, Laurence suggested she call Sunbelt sales rep Jason Kells. And so began the series of meetings that led to Laura’s successful purchase of Snazzy Seconds in March 2011.
“I knew the sale would be handled confidentially with Sunbelt,” adds Laurence. “They’re professionals. I bought the business through them in 2003.”
Greg acted as her broker again in this sale while Jason represented Laura’s interests.
Jason was excellent, says Laura. “He walked me through everything I needed to know, addressing all my concerns. He was always available when I called him, making sure it was a good experience.
“A broker with a well-established firm can expose the opportunity to hundreds of prospective buyers without employees, customers or a competitor knowing the business is for sale,” notes Greg. “A more detailed business prospectus is only provided to qualified prospective buyers after they have signed a legally enforceable, non-disclosure agreement (NDA).”
Someone who’s got your back
For her part, Laurence was ready to retire: her newly found “me time” already includes yoga, tennis, cooking new recipes. She’s also the primary caregiver for her mother and has two boys in competitive hockey. And who knows, she might end up spending some time in the business her husband has purchased through Sunbelt, in partnership with a neighbour (whose wife started Snazzy Seconds)
Laurence is missing her “girls”, though. “In selling, I wanted to make sure they still had a job. And clients like seeing familiar faces.”
“I love my staff, and the store looks great,” says Laura. “It’s a dream come true: I have good staff I can count on, a well-established business that’s a passion and an interest, and someone—in my case, my husband–to stand by and support me”.
Laura’s routine is to spend Friday evenings and one or two Saturdays a month in the store. With four children between one and a half and 13, and a full-time job outside the business, she depends on good organization and a calendar to keep it all together.
Staff off for a week with pneumonia can throw the best schedules, though. “My husband even took a shift,” Laura says in gratitude. “I gave him a 15-minute rundown on processing sales and that was it!”
Owning a business is an important life decision that affects your spouse as well, Greg affirms. “That’s why we encourage buyers to bring their family to meet with us early on as well.”
Laurence had the store running well, Laura notes. “I’ve only a few plans to make it even better than it already is—maybe adding more furniture. We have hundreds of items that come in and go out every week.”
And some are now from Laurence, handed in from the other side of the counter. “I brought in some crystal the other day and got a payout,” she smiles. “It was great!”
By Karen Runtz