What's that Business? Lots for TotsLots for Tots on Matterhorn Drive sells like-new children’s clothing and is celebrating its 20th year in business.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
What: Lots For Tots
Address: 4921 Matterhorn Drive in Duluth.
Business: Buy and sell like-new children’s clothing, toys and equipment.
Owner: Brenda Gilbert Anderson
Former jobs: Oncology nurse, nursing home manager, bookkeeper.
Market: People who don’t want to pay full price for children’s items.
“A lot of people believe that only people who don’t have money shop resale,” Gilbert Anderson said. “That’s not true. I’ve got as many professional people who are customers as I do people who don’t have as much means. Probably more so.”
Many of her customers are grandparents.
“A lot of new parents think a lot of things need to be new, and you hardly use some things,” she said. “Grandparents have already learned that lesson. They realize things don’t have to be brand new.”
Founded: May 1, 1991.
History: Gilbert got the idea for the business in the 1980s from a little store in Rochester that sold used children’s items. She said it was fun to visit and always busy.
In 1991, newly divorced and with a young daughter, Gilbert Anderson opened a 300-square-foot shop with the same resale concept in Duluth’s Lincoln Park. With her family’s help, it was open three days a week while she worked as a hospital bookkeeper. The business grew. She moved it to the mall area about 13 years ago. The store now is more than 3,000 square feet and open six days a week.
Being choosey: The store gets 10 to 20 calls a day from people who want to sell items for cash, so Gilbert Anderson says she can choose the best of the best.
“People think I will buy everything they bring in,” she said. “I rarely buy everything. I turn away more than I buy.”
She might turn away items that are in excellent shape, because they don’t sell well or she already has plenty in stock. She generally buys items for half what she sells them for. For example, she’ll pay $20 for a high chair she’ll sell for $39.
“I pay fairly,” she said. “I wouldn’t be in business for 20 years if I didn’t.”
And with one employee’s sole job cleaning the items that come in, everything is clean and fresh.
Employees: 10 part-time workers.
During recessions: Sales don’t jump. But more people are looking to sell items to the store. And a lot of it is good stuff they’re selling because they need the cash.
“The challenge is making sure that you don’t buy too much,” Gilbert Anderson said.
Retail prices: Range from $1.50 for a baby’s bodysuit to $89 for a double stroller. Shirts go for $2-$5; dresses for $5-$9. A name-brand snowsuit might be $60, a flower girl dress, $50.
“I like people to come in and see really good deals,” Gilbert said.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays.
Call: (218) 722-2028. People who want to sell items to the store need appointments.