Surrounded by hundreds of shirts, pants, bags, jewelry, and accessories, Michelle Schmitt is the proud owner of Pendy Consignment. To so many people, this job seems odd. It seems gross, almost. Why would any person want to work in a store full of used clothing? To answer this question, I interviewed a woman who not only works at the store but is the owner. Today, I will be telling you Michelle’s story; how she got here, where she started, and where she hopes to go.
In 1981, the very first Pendy Consignment store opened, since then, there have been seven stores. Today, only one remains. Temple Terrace, Florida is where the very first store was founded. Penny and Cyndi, the daughters of the owners, were the inspiration for the name. When a couple met them at church, they decided to open a brand-new store in Brandon, Florida. Michelle Schmitt’s mother-in-law is the original owner of the Brandon store that opened over 35 years ago. When Michelle’s father-in-law passed away, she bought the store from them.
While interviewing Michelle, I asked her several questions about herself. I wanted to know why she decided to own a thrift store. What was she doing before? Michelle Schmitt was not a stay-at-home wife, she worked a nine to five job, much like a lot of parents. When I asked her what her profession was before, she told me she worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Honestly, I was extremely surprised. I expected a simple job, something average; that is my fault for assuming. After marrying her husband, and having kids, she realized she wanted to be more involved with her children. Michelle says, “My kids were younger, and I wanted to be able to keep up with them better and be a part of their lives instead of working nine to five every day.” Although this may have been an easier job for Michelle, it is still not an effortless career.
Michelle explains that it can be difficult owning a thrift store, much like it can be difficult owning any type of store. She says that one of the most challenging aspects of working here has been keeping up with the current styles and trends in retail stores. “Keeping that balance of what we know would sell and wouldn’t sell.” She elaborated saying that it can be frustrating when things do not sell because that is how they make money, and how their customers profit. “There is a fine line of what sells and what doesn’t,” Michelle says. While she believes there can be moments of difficulty, she tells me that she also has things she loves about owning the store. She says, even after twenty years of serving, her favorite part is going through the clothes that people bring in daily, “I find it exciting to see what is coming in that day…I guess I’m nosy enough to see what other people have.”
In a city where there are dozens of thrift stores, Michelle tells that she is glad that her customers are loyal. For the many years that the store has been open, the same customers have continued to shop. This could be due to the amazing monthly sales, but it is more likely because of the cheerful staff that greets you when you enter. Michelle is hopeful that, in the next few years, her store will be thriving. She says that she does not see any drastic changes in the future, but that she hopes to stay busy. When our interview ended, the only thing that she asked to add was that she was grateful to the Brandon community for supporting the store for thirty-seven years; “I really love being a part of the community,” she says.
Pendy Consignment is a thrift store that is more about the customer than the clothing. When a person walks into the store, they immediately feel welcome and comfortable. This is because of the owner, Michelle Schmitt. Michelle cares about her customers and ensures that her staff does too. Pendy Consignment is a place where someone can find a new outfit and talk to a friend at the same time. During my time with Michelle, she explained the difficulties of owning the store, but how she gave up her career to do it. Owning a thrift store is full of opportunity, growth, and constant movement. After my interview with the owner, it was extremely clear that she loved what she did. Today, I told you her story; how she got here, where she started, and where she hoped to go. The next time you are shopping, stop by Pendy Consignment.