May 29, 2012 | 02:59 PMLAKE GENEVA — Pell Lake woman Crystal Smith said the final days of 2011 were miserable. That was when her dream of owning and operating a resale shop ended.
The week before Christmas, Chris Ann's Resale was forced to move out of the former Property Shoppe location at N1178 Clover Road. Smith said it was a sad last week for her. People would take advantage of the deals as they tried to sell off as much as they could, but she said she cried a lot that week.
"Anybody who was there could see what that business meant to the community," Smith said.
She blinked back a couple tears but her smile never faltered as she recalled those dark days before her life changed for the better.
Chris Ann's Resale recently reopened at 406 Highway 120, the former Floor Store location.
"My son said, 'You know, Mom, sometimes you've got to lose something important to get something better,'" Smith said.
In this case, also bigger.
In Pell Lake, Smith and her staff, friends and family operated out of 1,100 square feet of retail space. The new location has a total of 8,000 square feet. Currently, about 7,000 square feet is being used for retail
But she predicted by mid-June, the store will fill up.
"We have had a tremendous turnout on donations," Smith said. "Plus our old customers are finding us."
She seemed eager about the future as she discussed setting up the store once again, sorting through donated items, "pricing it, talking to people who come in, finding out we're all really not that much different."
Smith said so far, Chris Ann's has been well-received. Now, the challenge is if she can continue to provide low-priced, used items.
"It's about time something like this came to Lake Geneva … but I can't do it without everybody's donations, the help and support of family and friends, and the community," she said. "They're the ones who will decide whether I get to stay or leave."
Ups and downs
It's a better outlook for Smith's future now than it was around the start of the year.
"I was nerved up to say the least," she said about those days shortly after the closing in Pell Lake, which happened when a bank foreclosed on the property.
The turn of the screw in that situation, according to what Smith said in December 2011, was that she had signed a lease renewal with the owner of the building with the provision that the lease would automatically renew for them each year.
However, the building went into foreclosure before that renewal was signed, and the bank deemed this renewal null and void.
Earlier this year, according to Crystal, Gary suggested looking at the old Floor Store, which had a for rent sign in the window. The owner asked for rent which Crystal said "was high" and she told him she couldn't afford it. Then, she discovered she knew the owner, Randy Rodgers, since they both attended Badger High School together.
Crystal said she left Rodgers a message on his voicemail asking him to reduce the rent.
"He called me back while I was sitting there one weekend, boo-hooing and crying," she said. They negotiated a six-month lease which Crystal said was "doable."
Crystal and her core group of volunteers received the keys for what would become the new Chris Ann's March 29.
"Then we came over and everybody looked at the place," she said. "We all dreamed. We laughed, we cried, we started planning when we'd open."
But most of the stock from the old store was gone. Crystal said most of it went to Love Inc., Burlington.
"The other 25 percent I gave to a woman who was struggling," she said. "She was raising her grandkids and she was having a rummage sale to try and make some extra cash."
However, Crystal said they held onto the collectibles from the old store.
"We kept that stuff because it was going to be part of an auction," she said. "The auction house never had the room for it."
So they reopened Chris Ann's, and "if we get enough stockpiled we can lower our prices," she said. Crystal said the donation policy hasn't changed — "it's anything anybody wants to donate that's in usable condition" — and now they have furniture for sale. They also are looking for shelving units
"Hopefully, in six months, we can afford to pay what Randy would really like to see," she said.
But is this a temporary location? Crystal said she feels "at peace" in the old Floor Store.
"I'm done looking," she said. "This is it. When we walked in here, every one of us, we felt like we came home, like this is where we belonged. I see us here forever, or as long as Randy would have us."