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WNC Business

A shifting retail landscape leads to boosting local businesses

Nov 25, 2023 02:26PM ● By Randee Brown

After feeling burned out from working real estate, Stephanie Tryon went to work with her best friend and owner of ETC Consignment Shoppe in 1999. Loving her involvement with the store, Tryon purchased half of the business in 2001. In 2013, she became the full owner of the Asheville ETC location.

Formerly located on Patton Avenue in Asheville, the original building came under new ownership and ETC had to close in 2021. Not ready to be done with her store, Tryon relocated ETC to The Little Mall in Weaverville — a location that is more easily accessible for her customers with less traffic and better parking.

In the early stages of ETC, the business consisted exclusively of consignment items, accepting a wide variety including children’s clothing, men and women’s clothing, formalwear, and housewares. As sales shifted through the years, Tryon phased out children's and men’s clothing and formalwear.

“After COVID everything changed,” Tryon said. “People didn’t need business attire working from home. Suits used to be my biggest seller, now we don’t even take them anymore. People going to work in offices now are more casual also.”

The biggest change for Tryon’s retail business was bringing in local vendors in 2019. It started with a few artists, and once COVID started, there were many that didn’t have a market or a place to sell their products. Online platforms have fees that may make joining harder for very small businesses, and some markets have set-up fees as well, so ETC Consignment Shoppe provided an outlet for those makers.

Some of ETC’s first vendors included Cornerstone Tea, The Quill and Honey, and The Knotted Moss. Now, Tryon stocks products from around 70 to 75 local vendors. 

“I didn’t realize how many I had until I wrote it all down,” Tryon said. “A few have changed over the years, but most of the ones that came to my store have stayed.”

The addition of local vendors has been the biggest change for the business, and according to Tryon, in some ways it probably saved the business. People come in who are not looking for clothes, but looking for gifts and locally-made items.

“The timing was right,” Tryon said. “We didn’t see many vendors selling local just a few years ago, and now you see that everywhere and others are jumping on that bandwagon. Since the pandemic especially, people making things like jewelry on the side were forced to start their own business, and they’ve stuck with that instead of going back to the office.”

ETC Consignment Shoppe’s best sellers include locally-made food products like Poppy Popcorn, Biscuit Head mixes and jams, and teas. Other popular items include handmade soaps and handmade jewelry.

Tryon said while her clientele has changed somewhat, many of her long-time customers return looking for different items.

“They are buying products instead of or in addition to clothes,” Tryon said. “We get a lot more tourists looking for local products, and we do a lot of things for AirBnb owners and realtors. They put local products in their rentals and make welcome baskets for their clients, so offering these local products boosts their businesses too.”

ETC also hosts a pop-up market on Saturdays during the warmer months. Local vendors are invited to set up and sell their products directly to customers. There are usually three to five vendors and up to 10 at a time, selling products from plants, vegetables, fried pies, handmade jewelry, and more. Tryon does not charge a set-up fee; she said it creates more store traffic and really is just something fun to do on Saturdays.

Consignment is still a large part of her business. Tryon said she and her staff of seven pay attention to styles to make sure the clothing they accept is within the last two years of style. Everything that comes in must be cleaned, pressed, and ready to go on the sales floor. Items stay for up to 60 days, and if sold, the consigner receives 40% of what the item sells for. After that 60-day window, the consigner can either pick up the items, or they are donated to WNC Ministries.

“It becomes too much inventory if we hold onto items longer than that,” Tryon said. “It also keeps the inventory fresh and keeps things interesting for customers. We never know what kinds of things will come into the store, and that’s the most exciting part. It could be houseware items that have been packed away in an attic, or it could be items that are still brand new with the tags still on. We’ve seen a lot of interesting things come in and out of the store over the years.”

Stephanie Tryon is the owner of ETC Consignment Shoppe in Weaverville. Learn more at