Sandy Macaulay’s business has occurred in a series of leaps: the leap from operating out of her home to renting a warehouse and another leap in letting go of one reliable source of inventory in favor of another.

The first jump resulted from a space issue. Over months of purchasing inventory to resell online and through garage sales, her own garage was so crammed that one day her husband looked around and suggested, “Maybe we need to get you more space.”

volkswagenMacaulay agreed, renting a 2,000 square foot unit amid doubts about being able to fill it. “I thought maybe I should get someone with a boat in there to use the rest of the space,” she says.

She needn’t have worried. These days, it takes two huge warehouses to hold the inventory for her retail and online store The Retreasury Estate Warehouse. What began with a single visit to a storage unit auction has become a full-time business flipping items purchased at estate sales.

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Owner Sandy Macaulay now has two full-time employees and several on call to help with moving estates.

The next change was due to a nagging conscience. When she started the business in 2010, most of Macaulay’s merchandise came through storage units that had been repossessed due to lack of payment. Over time, that began to bother her. “There was a story in every unit,” she says. “You could tell if there had been a divorce or someone had gotten really sick. It was sad. I realized that I didn’t want my business to be built on someone else’s misfortune.”

Once she made that decision, change came quickly. “I got a call from a person who was struggling in dealing with her parents’ estate. She was limited in time and resources and it was very emotional for her. She just needed someone to come in and take care of it and in doing so it relieved much of her stress and worries,” she says. “The difference was that I was now helping. As soon as I made that transition, I started getting phone calls.”

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Macaulay never knows what she’s going to get through estate sales, but keeps her inventory rotating on a regular basis.

That was three years ago. Now nearly 100% of her items come from estate sales, often from family members of people who’ve passed away.  “It’s a solution that brings families peace of mind,” she says. “Death in the family is really stressful. A lot of people would prefer to step away from the situation and have someone else take care of it for them. When they keep seeing things that belonged to the person they loved, they end up re-living the emotion. It disables a lot of people and they can’t do it.” There are also many people making changes in their lives and downsizing. Macaulay and her crew assist with that as well, making their transitions much easier.

As a result, many valuable items would end up in a landfill because the family either wasn’t aware of them or didn’t know what to do with them. “Rather than holding a weekend garage sale, it was much easier for them to call and say, ‘Please take care of it,’” says Macaulay. When she deals with an estate, there is first a culling process to decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to simply throw away.  “It can be as much as a total clean out of an estate,” she says. “I don’t mind dealing with it and we can take care of everything, including the dump runs if needed.”

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Many estates include mid-century and modern furniture, both of which are popular among clients at The Retreasury.

Dealing with estates as a whole means she never knows what she’s going to get. It could be vintage furniture, fishing equipment, tools, or an entire collection of old-fashioned irons. “If I end up with a lot of something, I’ll often select the best and donate the rest,” she says. The next step is deciding what to sell online and what to offer through her retail outlet. If an item is in demand online and has a higher value, she’ll usually post it on eBay or Craigslist.

As the business has grown, so has her client base, which ranges from boat owners, who’ve dropped off their craft next door for repairs and wander in to the Lacey shop to browse, to collectors with specific requests. “People say it’s their favorite place to shop,” she says. “I hear that all the time. They appreciate the effort that’s gone into making it a nice environment. It’s set up more like a home environment rather than a few rows of miscellaneous stuff.”

Her standards have also changed. “As I’ve grown I’ve become more selective about what I put out,” she says. “Initially I would put out anything, but now I’m more concerned about the quality of the goods. You can get designer merchandise here. Mid-century is really popular so I’ve got a lot of vintage and mid-century.”

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Items to be sold online are photographed in the warehouse and posted with descriptions before being shipped.

Now, Macaulay is getting ready for another leap. Currently she has two employees as well several on-call who help with moving days. “I’m lucky to have key people that I feel really confident about,” she says. “I’ve been working in the business, but now it’s time to step back and work on the business, to start looking at things from a process-oriented perspective and facilitate helping more people on a vaster scale. I’m at the stage where I need to make another shift.”

The Retreasury
2915 Marvin Road NE in Lacey
Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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