Sisters loving time together at New & Again in Gibson City

GIBSON CITY — While some siblings look forward to the chance to leave home and start adulthood on their own, Julie Stagen, Vicki Rhodes and Becky McDevitt can’t seem to get enough of each other’s company.

While all went their own ways and pursued different occupations after growing up in the Ford County town of Elliott and graduating from Gibson City High School, the three sisters eventually wound up together again, as they started their own business 10 years ago — the New & Again resale store in downtown Gibson City.

Some customers might wonder how they manage to work together each day at their shop at 102 N. Sangamon Ave., but Stagen, Rhodes and McDevitt certainly don’t.

“We’re fine together,” said Stagen, the youngest of the three at age 56.

“It’s really cool,” added the 64-year-old Rhodes, the eldest. “We’re all different enough that we can appreciate each other’s expertise and talents.”

“We all have different gifts,” Stagen said. “Becky worked in the professional field as (a registered nurse), so she has more of the business sense of things. And Vicki’s the artistic one.”

“And Julie’s the creative one,” Rhodes said.

“We just kind of all do our part, and it seems to work” Stagen said.

There are no complaints anywhere to be found amongst the three sisters. While they do live apart — Stagen lives in Paxton, Rhodes in rural Foosland and the 60-year-old McDevitt in Gibson City — they spend most of their days together, and they enjoy it immensely.

Celebrating 10 years in business in 2016, New & Again is a consignment-based clothing resale store that the sisters first opened in April 2006. They have no plans of ending their joint business venture anytime soon, either.

“As long as our health holds out and we’re all still kicking” Rhodes said.

Getting things started
The sisters started New & Again after each was nearing the end of their respective careers. McDevitt worked as a registered nurse from 1976 to 2016. Rhodes had helped her husband in his business, Rhodes Tower Service, in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. Stagen was a hairdresser and cosmetologist for some 20 years.

“It’s not like we all got together and said, ‘Let’s do something; what should we do?’” Rhodes recalled. “We honestly believe the Lord led us this way. It was an opportunity that we really feel was a gift from the Lord.”

It was 2006 when the sisters learned that the Upscale Resale women’s clothing consignment shop, which had been operated out of the building 102 N. Sangamon Ave. for the previous nine years, would be closing.

“We heard that this shop was closing, and I personally believed that it was vital to the downtown area — it was good for the local gals to keep their closets cleaned out, and it provided a service,” Rhodes said. “So I called Julie and said, ‘What do you think about asking Mary Faith Litwiller, the owner (of Upscale Resale), if she would let us take over the shop for her and run it for her?’ — because we all like garage sale stuff; we all like thrift shops; we all like consignment shopping and things.

“We were just going to manage it for her, so she didn’t have to work it. She was having issues with her health, so we thought, ‘Rather than close it, why don’t we take it over for you and work for you?’

“Julie agreed, so I approached Mary Faith Litwiller and said, ‘What would you think about us girls taking over your business for you?’ She goes, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ So she called me back in a day or two and said that her husband (who owned the building) just really wanted to sell this building.”

The sisters, however, weren’t prepared to buy the building — until, that is, their husbands stepped in.

“I called Julie back and told her that Mary Faith Litwiller wanted to sell it,” Rhodes recalled. “Julie then calls me back later and says that her husband, Brian, wanted to know how much (was the asking price). I later found out from Mary Faith Litwiller what she wanted for it, and Julie goes, ‘Brian wants to buy it.’

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

On a mission, of sorts
New & Again accepts used clothing and accessories on a consignment basis, from “junior” size and up.

“Anything a woman uses,” Stagen said.

“We’ve got shoes, lingerie,” Rhodes added.

“We work with Strictly Kids (a children’s used clothing shop located a couple of doors down),” Stagen noted. “They stop (their clothing selection) at a certain point, like ‘junior 3,’ and we’ll pick up where they stop, so there’s no competition or anything.”

The consignment of items at New & Again involves a signed contract, wherein if the clothing is sold, the owner receives 50 percent of the sale proceeds and New & Again keeps the other half.

If an item does not sell, it is donated to an organization called “World Relief,” Stagen said.

“We have a family that comes and picks up things (that do not sell),” Stagen said.

“The people who pick up our things are based in Fairbury, and they have a really nice, big warehouse where anything that isn’t sold, they take it to that facility, they go through it, and if it can be repaired, they repair it, and then they take semi-truck fulls down to southern Texas to a mission down there that is World Relief,” Rhodes said. “We’ve actually got ‘thank you’ notes from this mission down there.

“From there, I don’t know where it all goes. But I do know that it doesn’t get piled up in a corner ... and get wasted. It gets used. The people who pick ours up said these items are going to women who have dirt floors.”

The philanthropic effort “has given us an opportunity to look at (our business) as a ministry, because we’ve been able to help some people that we feel really needed the help,” Rhodes added.

1,700 and counting
Since opening 10 years ago,  nearly 1,700 consignors have sold items at New & Again. The items are sold at affordable prices.

“If something comes in with a ‘new’ tag on it, we’ll look at it and go half-price, maybe a little lower than that, on the average,” Stagen said.

While mothers do the shopping, their husbands or children can wait in a sitting area just inside the store’s front door. Available there are reading materials and children’s games.

“We want it to be comfortable, and a lot of times maybe we’ll have like a retired couple come in, and she’s wanting to shop,” Rhodes said. “Well, we’ve provided a place for the guy to sit and read, and then she doesn’t feel pressured (to hurry up).”

“I’ve said, ‘All we need is a popcorn machine, a coffee maker and a Field & Stream (magazine selection), and the guys will be happy,’” Stagen said.

The store takes pride in its welcoming atmosphere, Stagen said. Oftentimes, people will come in the door and just want to chat, she noted.

“So many (have done so) that we’ve had to put up a no soliciting sign,” Stagen said with a laugh.

“Everybody says how clean it is, how attractive it is, that the windows always look good, that it doesn’t smell like an old clothing store, and how nice our stuff is,” Stagen added.

New & Again’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call 217-784-8191.

Categories (3):News, Retail, Business

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