Thursday, April 2, 2015

Road Trip! Replacements, Ltd

I love a road trip -- especially to places I haven't been before.  AND I'm a sucker for a factory tour -- offer to show me the behind-the-scenes operation and I'm on it!  Maybe the fascination goes back to the factory tour segments on MisterRogers and the old Sesame Street look at how they make crayons (remember the one that started & ended with the little girl looking at the crayon)?

So, a few weeks ago, we drove down to Florida and went by way of North Carolina so we could stop at Replacements, Ltd -- you've probably heard of them and may have looked up china or silver online.  I was excited to see the brick and mortar building, which (according to their website) is " 500,000 square foot facilities (the size of 8 football fields!)" and home to "an incredible inventory of 12 million pieces in more than 400,000 patterns."

I had some china to sell them -- odd plates, serving pieces and place settings.  Being a seller is quite a process!   The first step is to send them your pattern name and they send you an 'offer to purchase' which is good for 30 days.  It names every piece made in the pattern and what price they're currently paying for that piece (or 'not buying' if there's no demand or a backlog).

Next, if you're delivering you china like I was, you make an appointment and then check in at the sellers' entrance.  They take your china to a table (there were rows and rows of these tables, with many workers evaluating) and look what you brought.  They'll either pay you full price from the 'offer to purchase', half price (if the item has wear) or refuse it outright (if they find a flaw or something they don't like).
Evaluation tables ... The colored plastic cups represent their evaluations -- some are for 'full price', some for 'reduced' and some for 'refused'.  
Boxed pieces on skids, waiting to go tot he storeroom
Shelves & shelves of evaluated pieces, just waiting to be put away.  The brown 'stacks' at the back are the ends of rows of shelves.
You can either wait or go away and return later -- they'll call you or text when they're finished. I learned that Replacements has people all over the country who are certified suppliers for them -- some of them were delivering while I was there and had full pallets of boxed china, silver & crystal, piled 3 & 4 boxes high, so they didn't hang around!  One of the workers told me that many of the suppliers shop all year and then deliver their items once or twice a year instead of shipping it.  The certified suppliers get a higher price for their stuff than I did as a one-time seller, but they have to pay a fee to be certified and get the master catalog of purchase prices.

There's a retail store with lots of china, silver flatware and silver pieces.
Retail store
Fiesta at the retail store -- the tour guide told me it's one of their best sellers, which I found odd since you can get this at most department stores
Rows and rows of silver at the retail store
More silver
I loved the silver there (can't you tell?)  I got my first pieces of vintage silver when I was in high school -- I know it marks me as a nerd, but I used to ask for it for my birthday & Christmas, even as a pre-teen, and I still love it.  Their silver was amazing!
Can you read the price on this sterling tea service?!
Most of the china was either too new or too 'frou frou' for my taste.  I was surprised at how little mid-century was on display.  I know that they have it, but it apparently isn't as sought-after.
New china and collectibles
My favorite part of the retail store is back in the back -- Bob's Corner.  It's called that for the owner, Bob Page, and had lots of little bits of kitsch, all priced at $10 or less.  Some had flaws and some was perfect and it was fun to look it over, but almost all of it was newer than I like.

The storerooms have really high ceilings -- maybe 20-30 feet and rows of shelves that go all the way up, completely packed with merchandise.  They even sell newer collectibles and Christmas ornaments (Christopher Radko & ones like that).

They have one huge warehouse area (the original one) that's full of every pattern and item that they sell.  Then there's a second warehouse addition (recently built) that holds the backlog of those items!

There's a silver restoration service, a crystal restoration service and one for china, as well, but I didn't get any pictures of those areas, as they were behind closed doors and could only be seen through little windows.  I was amazed at how they could reclaim really worn dishware and completely restore broken crystal.

Their researchers are experts, too, at finding pattern names and identifying look-alike-but-not-the-same patterns (like some of the Noritake Occupied Japan ones).  I think they have the most fun job in  the whole place!

The last thing you see is this hallway, where they have their most popular china patterns on display.  Pretty impressive!
The most popular china patterns
Would I take china to them again?  Maybe and maybe not... In the end, I didn't get as much for the china as I might have liked (nowhere near the amount they charge online) and not enough to justify shipping it to them, though it was fine for delivery, since we were going that way regardless.  There were just so many mid-century patterns I have that they weren't buying or not paying much for.  Still, it was better than donating it to the thrift store and I made a little money on I had the bonus of a new experience!  

If you're passing by Greensboro, North Carolina, stop by the store (and take the tour, if you have a half hour free) -- it's fun to see the operation behind the online site!  



Very interesting!!! Thanks for sharing your visit. I have looked on line for pieces and felt they were too expensive...

Vonlipi said...

That is a cool place! I bought a piece from them but had no idea it was actually a brick and mortar store!

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