As with the start of all great business ideas, Patricia Espinosa realized she was onto something when she couldn’t find it anywhere else in the market. Nearly a decade ago, a friend who was selling furniture with an online auction company where each item starts at a dollar asked Espinosa if she wanted to join in, knowing that Espinosa didn’t have a house full of stuff but rather a few great pieces.
But Espinosa—a 20-year veteran of the home furnishings and apparel industries, who’d previously worked in business strategy, management, sales and merchandising—knew the value of the high-end home items she had on her hands, and it wasn’t $1. She soon realized there was a dearth in the market for individual private sellers seeking a higher level of service. In 2014, she soft-launched the idea: a localized spin on high-end resale service, which she called The Local Vault.
“Our first client was a friend of mine who had things in storage that had been collecting dust, and she was finally ready to part with her items. From there came more friends and friends of friends,” says Espinosa. “Honestly, the demand was so great that people quickly found out about our white-glove service and came calling.”
The overarching purpose of The Local Vault is to offer start-to-finish support of the resale process, taking over on behalf of its sellers to save them time and ensure their luxury items are treated as such. In practice, the selling journey starts with an approval process, where all items consignors hope to sell on the site are assessed by the company’s lead curator, who decides whether or not the pieces are a good fit for The Local Vault. The platform is strictly focused on high-end home furnishings—a standard that’s key to keeping the attention of its designer clientele, who generate a quarter of the platform’s sales.
According to Espinosa, a brand like RH would represent the starting price point for the caliber of items accepted on the platform. Names like Donghia, Rose Tarlow Melrose House and George Smith are also in the safe zone, though retail brands like Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel wouldn’t make the cut. “I always joke that we don’t discriminate by age, we discriminate by beauty,” says Espinosa. “It could be designer brands, vintage pieces, antiques, art, lighting, rugs—it just has to be really beautiful and in good condition.”
Once the lead curator gives her approval, The Local Vault sends an agent out into the field to see the item in person and take measurements and photos for its listing on the site. The team then professionally prices the piece based on product comparisons and the site’s own historical data. Once it’s up on the site, buyers must make an offer that is at least 70 percent of the listed cost, which sellers can then accept, counter or decline. While the item is for sale, consignors have the option of keeping a piece at their home or having it stored in The Local Vault’s warehouse, where potential buyers can schedule a visit to see a piece in person or simply peruse current offerings. There, buyers can also have a piece refinished or reupholstered from one of The Local Vault’s in-house vendors.
The past two years have proven to be transformative for the company, which has seen business triple as the pandemic accelerated the shift toward purchases of pre-owned items and e-commerce. The platform’s localized angle has also given it an added edge as supply chain issues continue to pose problems with shipping and deliveries, creating frustration from homeowners and further stretching project timelines for designers.
While the company is making moves to court its designer clientele, Espinosa explains that the relationship goes both ways. She views designers as integral to The Local Vaults’s growth—and as a key force in guiding the direction of its expansion. Recently, the business moved beyond New York’s tri-state area and into the new markets of Boston; Atlanta; Palm Beach, Florida; Los Angeles and San Francisco—each design hubs in their own right and locations chosen after designers there wanted to consign pieces through the platform.
“Designers are sort of like the gateway for us—they connect us to sellers. The best inventory that we get generally comes via a designer through their client, so we’re going to go where design communities are strong,” says Espinosa.
It’s the platform’s first major step since its recent period of rapid growth, and for Espinosa, it’s a move in the right direction toward what she views as the future of The Local Vault. “One of the things that we’ve found is that the happiest customers are those who are local who buy from local sellers—it’s cheaper, it’s immediate, and they can shop knowing they are reducing their carbon footprint,” says Espinosa. “Our vision for the company is to become a national brand with local implementation, by creating a network of local communities.”
In a further bid to make that happen, Espinosa already has a few strategies underway for maximizing the company’s presence in design circles. A key feature on the site is the Tastemakers section, in which different designers are featured periodically on the website’s home page, alongside an interview and a collection they’ve curated based on the site’s current offerings. The series is spearheaded by The Local Vault’s designer liaison Jennifer Matthews, the former publisher of design titles like Luxe Interiors + Design and the Cottages & Gardens media group, who has now talked to a venerable list of design icons for the site—designers like Meg Braff, Ariel Okin, Alexa Hampton and, most recently, design editor and creative consultant Carolyn Englefield.
For Espinosa, the series is another step in establishing The Local Vault as a destination for designers and for those who look to designers for style inspiration—a playbook that may prove to help the company carve out a real niche for itself in home furnishings resale circles.
Homepage image: Inside The Local Vault’s warehouse. | Courtesy of The Local Vault