Start-up spotlight: Local entrepreneurs create a new way to shop

Using a rehabbed space on the Highland Strip, Frugal Home Finds is the brick-and-mortar answer to online flash sale sites. Relying on rare finds, their own craft skills and personal relationships with customers, this enterprising new business is redefining retail. 
As 20-year residents of the University District, when Chris and Neala Hester's Craigslist business outgrew their home, they opted to set up shop in their own neighborhood. For more than a year Neala sold furniture on Craigslist out of their garage. When business became too much for their space at home, the next logical step was to find a warehouse. Instead, the Hesters found a spot on the Highland Strip, which provides 5,000 square feet of warehouse and showroom space, only two minutes from their house. Formerly the Tiger Gift Shop, 531 S. Highland is now Frugal Home Finds, an entirely new retail experience for the Highland Strip.

Renovation needs for the space were minimal, including painting over quite a bit of "Tiger Blue" to transform the space in preparation for their opening in the fall of 2014. 

The 3,000-square-foot showroom offers new, repurposed and vintage furniture and home decor at prices considerably lower than traditional home stores. The heavily curated stock is unique and modern, and moves fast, with new items arriving every 2 to 3 weeks. Frugal Home Finds' stock is fresh and limited--hand picked for shoppers who enjoy the thrill of the hunt. "We want to make sure that our items are unique. We don't want to be a typical furniture store in offerings or feel," says Neala. The Hesters repair minor flaws in shop, while other small defects are reflected in the discounted prices--typically 50% less than retail, but often more. 

With Chris and Neala as the only staff, Frugal Home Finds is appointment only Monday through Wednesday, with regular hours on Thursday, Friday and select Saturdays. This schedule allows the Hesters to foster one-on-one relationships with their clients, which Neala cites as her favorite aspect of the business. However, the schedule brings challenges as the Hesters seek to find hours that work for their customers as well as for their family's needs. Facebook has proved a vital tool for them--items are photographed and posted as they arrive--but Frugal Home Finds does not ship, and they do not take phone orders, because they want their customers to put their hands on their items before they buy. Customers can phone, Facebook message or email regarding pieces they wish to see in person. 

Not relying on walk-in traffic has allowed the Hesters to thrive in a neighborhood catering to the University of Memphis student body rather than Frugal Home Finds' typical clientele.  Not aimed at dorm living, their products appeal to customers (primarily female and over 25) who seek unique pieces and love a bargain.

"We may be able to do more business in the suburbs, but this neighborhood is our home and we grew into this space organically," says Chris. "Not only have we lived here for 20 years, we were married down the street at the Junior League." 

"We just can't escape the 38111!" jokes Neala. As for future plans, the Hesters say they are very flexible and open minded in regards to where the business heads.
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