By David Coulson
Sept. 16, 2014. When Susan and Mike Brown purchased a commercial building as an investment property in 2007, they never expected that they would become owners of a successful consignment business.
Seven years later, Susan and Mike are the owners of Banner Elk Consignment Cottage – a unique business that has fit like a glove to a hand in this thriving mountain community.
“I had always wanted to do something like this,” said Susan of a business that continues to grow and flourish five years after opening its doors in May 2009.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the business is its unusual setting. “It looks like you are walking into a house,” Susan explained.
The location of the Banner Elk Consignment Cottage is perfectly described by the name of the business, which occupies what was formerly a two-room cottage at the front edge of the town’s quaint business district.
“Our location is in a great niche in our community,” said Susan, who has lived in this picturesque village for twenty years.
“I like being in this part of Banner Elk.”
Sitting next door to Edge of the World Outfitters and across the street from popular Louisiana Purchase Restaurant and Clark Gallery at 414 Shawneehaw Ave., the fine furnishings of the store give off a vibe of being at home as customers shop furniture and fine accessories.
“We have a lot of interior designers shop at our store,” said Susan, who said that these professionals, like other customers, are drawn to the combination of high quality and one-of-a-kind items.
Susan is also proud of the furniture that her store has attracted through the years with brands such as Drexel, Bob Timberlake, Ralph Lauren, Henredon, Moore and Old Hickory.
Susan puts an emphasis on quality products with items she decides to consign but there is also a nice variety of items at many price points.
“It is all about quality,” said Susan. “We sell really great furniture at great prices.”
During the five years the business has been open, Susan has had close to one thousand different people consign products to the store.
Two years ago, The Banner Elk Consignment Cottage expanded by opening an annex in High Country Square, adding an additional showroom featuring more fine furnishings. The Annex is run by Susan’s father, retired attorney Charles “Chuck” Franson. Susan’s mother, Marian Franson, helped open the original store and worked with her daughter until passing away three years ago.
Last year, Susan and Mike purchased the lot next to the original Cottage and hired Michael Thomas of MT Construction to build an additional showroom. The Barn opened in August of 2014, providing an additional 1,600 square feet of showroom with a loft used to better display rugs on consignment.
Susan and Mike have three sons, Trevor, 26, Sam, 24 and Charlie, 18. Trevor lives in New Orleans, Sam is currently helping Susan through the recent expansion of the business and Charlie is a freshman at the University of North Carolina.
The Banner Elk Consignment Cottage operates year-round and has found that ski season in the High Country is a particular boost to business. “Some people don’t like to ski, so they come here and shop,” Susan said with a big smile.
The business has come a long way from a shop that began with no merchandise.
“It was all word of mouth,” said Susan, “and the business grew very quickly.”
One of the interesting elements of the store is the way that it is constantly changing with items being sold and new merchandise arriving.
“I have to re-arrange furniture a lot,” Susan admitted. “But it’s a lot of fun. It’s like setting a stage every day or every week.”
Susan gets a constant flow of unique items which include mirrors, lamps, pottery, art and antiques.
What makes the work most worthwhile for Susan is her interaction with customers. “We meet lots of wonderful people,” Susan explained.
“The thing I love the most is meeting the people.”
The Banner Elk Consignment Cottage and Barn are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. The Banner Elk Consignment Cottage Annex, located at High Country Square, is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12:00pm to 3:00pm or by appointment.