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McClatchy-Tribune  02/05/2014 12:01 AM ET
Working on the First Coast: Thrift shop browsers may like this Diamond in the Rough [The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville :: ]

Feb. 05--Kaye Smith spent most of her life bartending. But now she's tending a store that she and partner Marilyn Pendergrass opened three years ago. It's called Diamond in the Rough, a thrift store with a little bit of everything on U.S. 1 in Dinsmore.

Smith talked about it ...

OK, how'd this start?

My partner and I went shopping one day and we said, "We could do that." On the way back into town, we saw this store for rent. Just for the heck of it, we stopped and boom! -- we were in the thrift store business.

Have you always lived in this part of town?

Oh, yeah, I was born and raised on the Northside.

Is that where you tended bar?

Most all of them were along Lem Turner. I think I only went across the bridge once to work.

So where do you get the stuff for the store?

We pick it up here and there. Yard sales, donations.

Are you making money?

Not really. But we outlasted the Food Lion.

What do you mean?

Food Lion opened down the road where Rowe's is at the same time we did. But they didn't make it a year. We figured we must be doing something right.

You said that people do donate things?

They come by and ask if we take donations, and we do. But we don't advertise. I had a friend who had a thrift store and people would leave bags at the front door. But when you opened them, it'd be old food or dirty diapers. We don't need that.

There is a bit of everything. Books, record albums ....

We had a vintage set of Samsonite luggage from the 1970s or '80s. A woman bought some pieces, then came back today to buy the last one.

To use?

No, she makes things out of them. She made a table and sold it for $80, then another and sold it for $100. She's really creative.

Do you sell a lot of clothes?

Clothes are about half our sales. We weren't going to get into clothing at all, but people kept asking us for it. So we went home and started cleaning out our closets. When we started running out, we had to find some more. I'll tell you, we can't sell a man's suit here, but we can sure sell a lot of camouflage. We could sell all this for a lot more in Riverside or San Marco. But you have to cater to the neighborhood.

You said you aren't making money. Are you at least paying the bills?

That's about it. It slows down when it rains or when it's cold and people don't want to stop. The city had the road all torn up with cones everywhere. But we get the traffic coming by on U.S. 1, people from Georgia. Antique dealers will come by.

Do you get many antiques here?

We get some, and sometimes we have to Google to see what it's worth. But I've been around thrift stores and I worked in a flea market once, so I have an idea. And we're learning. Like this, it's a Monet, but not a real one.

No, it's probably not.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296


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