Tuesday, September 27, 2011

News Flash - Leftovers SF talk about Consignment

On the advice of Laura from Off the Racks, I took a trip to Leftovers, the best place in San Francisco to visit to buy 2nd hand furniture or to consign your household goods.  This isn't a glorified garage sale.  Instead, this is a place where you'll find quality antiques and modern furnishings.  Leftover's philosophy is to reuse, recycle and re love.
Photo courtesy of Heels and Sunkissed Curls

Leftover's owner, Kelly took a couple of moments to tell me a bit about what it is that they do, more about the store, and her team, and what trends she predicts will take off.

How did Leftovers get started?

I was an advertising art director most of my career and I was looking for a new way to be creative and make a living. I had just moved to the Lower Polk area in SF and noticed a corner shop for lease. It was a bit run down, but I knew it could be a wonderful spot with a little tlc. My mom had owned consignment clothing shops since I was 12; I decided to try her business model, but instead, the merchandise would be my “true love”: furniture.

I’ve been recommended to visit your store by many bloggers that I’ve contacted.  What do you think lends to your popularity?

A visit to a consignment is an exciting venture. Leftovers receives at least one delivery a day, sometimes three or even five. The inventory changes so rapidly, the store always looks new and is brimming with interesting items. Not to mention, the great feeling one has when they find a unique piece and it’s A BARGAIN. Shopping doesn’t get any better than that.

Can you tell me about some memorable pieces and people that you have come across over the years?

There’s been hundreds of special things that have come into the shop, it’s really hard to mention just a few, but I will… There was this couch once, made by an English designer, that was pretty cool – modern and antique at the same time. Down-filled. Delicious fabric. Beautiful. It was expensive by Leftovers standards  ($1700); it sold in a record-breaking two hours. Also, we had a large, gold gilt cherub from an old I. Magnin christmas window display. We got it when we first opened and had in our front window. I hated to see him go when he eventually sold – perfectly chubby body, nice countenance on his face, great curls in his hair, etc. Some kids bought it for a friend as a joke. Ugh. (It was $500). Lastly, we got a set of six dining chairs that I loved. Came from a gorgeous house in Marin County. They had originally been purchased at Limn. Each one was a smooth piece of walnut. High backed, modern and organic all at the same time. Stunning. ($2400/set)

Have you noticed any trends so far this year?  What are the hot sellers?

This year we’ve sold lots of beautiful small desks (secretaries), big mirrors, unique single chairs and some amazing couches. Anything that is sexy is hot right now. The antique, grandma stuff not so much. You couldn’t pay me to take a big, heavy, oak roll-top desk!

What would you say contributes to the popularity of that era with interior design?

It’s not a “popular era” per se, but more of an attitude of wanting a “wow piece” that our shoppers gravitate toward. The things that come in that are really cool, are just that… and people want it. Revamping used pieces with a new lacquer or upholstery is often done too. Also, people are looking for space-saving pieces. So many have downsized or are sharing spaces; they need to have furniture that fits just right in small spaces and organizes them. That’s what we’ve seen in SF anyway.

How do you price your items?

With the help of the consignor’s information, the internet and our gut.

People in Vancouver find it daunting to go "treasure hunting" in antique stores and consignment stores.  How popular is consignment in San Francisco?  What do you think influences that?

I think consignment stores are hugely popular in the Bay Area, but strangely Leftovers is the only true consignment furniture store in SF. It’s a ton of work to successfully manage a professional, used furniture business; It’s not for the weak at heart, but I love it. So, I guess, consignment shopping is popular, but opening a consignment furniture store is not. I think what influences the popularity of our store is that San Franciscans pride themselves on being unique and creative. Since most of the housing in our city consists of old, Victorians and Edwardians, they have a lot fun decorating their abodes and love coming to Leftovers to do it.

What advice would you give people who don't know where to start?

First take an inventory of what you have. Get rid of things you don’t like or have outgrown. Donate if they are still viable items. Don’t throw in the garbage. And if you leave it on the street, it may be me who will be picking it up! Make some decisions on how you want the feeling of your space to be when you have finished your remodel or update. Buy some design magazines too – tear out pages of what appeals to you. Try to emulate what you see. Look for pieces to fill in what you need. Then sprinkle in a few things you don’t and you are golden.

As a big dog fan, I couldn’t help but notice your animal family at your store.  Can you tell me about how they contribute to your store?

All of our adopted animals are so loved here at the shop… by me, my staff and our shoppers. It’s really great to see how open the customers are to having a big, fluffy, three-legged cat sitting in their lap while trying to decide on a certain table to buy. We take in animals that usually have some kind of handicap and weren’t adopted at the local shelter for whatever reason. The cats are happy to be here and we are grateful to have them with us.

Last but not least, I’ve noticed on your website that Leftovers is part of a very special community and fosters a type of culture.  Can you describe that culture?

There wasn’t a conscious decision to cultivate a community as in a formal, business mission statement. Our culture grew out of like-minded people coming together. Employees and clients. I never knew there was such a large subculture of regular people who love buying reused and recycled stuff, even though I’ve done my share of visits to Urban Ore in Berkeley and seen all the scavengers there. The demographic is more far-reaching than just those eclectic types driving around in vintage Ford pick-ups.

My mom told me once that you can find a retail space, sign the lease, paint, set up the computers and all the rest, but once you open the doors, the business takes on it’s own life. It expands and grows in directions you may have not expected and it’s interesting to see what happens. I now know that’s true.

So far as the “animal rescue” vibe goes, having our pets lounging around on the merchandise makes our space warm and cozy. Who couldn’t use a little snuggle pick me up from one of our furry friends during their hectic, busy day?

Come visit Leftovers at:
1414 Van Ness between Bush & Pine

Check out their twitter feed and take a gander at their Flickr album to see what they have in store!

Here are some pics that I took during my visit:

You may also be interested in:
Laura from On the Racks
Roselle and Neil
Trish's Pink Kitchen


  1. Awesome post/interview! So glad you had the chance to check out Leftovers. :)

    xo L

  2. My Mom works at Leftovers. The people there are really great and she adores all the wonderful animals.

  3. Hi Lisa I really enjoyed my trip out to Leftovers. Everyone was very busy and there was so much to see and animals to greet!