Small Change Consignments: Outfitting Reston Families Since 1981

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Classic Reston is a biweekly feature sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce that highlights businesses, places and people with deep roots in Reston.

Before there was a widespread movement to buy local, reuse and recycle, there was Small Change Consignments.

In 1981, Susann Gerstein was a New York transplant with young children who found herself with time on her hands and an idea. Kids grow out of their toys and clothes so fast — why was there no children’s consignment store in Reston?

Gerstein teamed with two friends, and they opened Small Change at Lake Anne Plaza, unsure of what kind of reception they would find.

“This was before people even recycled newspapers,” she said. “But they knew garage sales. We were the only game in town — there was no eBay, no Reston Town Center, no discount stores.”

Dolls at Small Change Consignments/Credit: Small ChangeThe store was successful from the start, says Gerstein. Thirty-two years later, the two other founding partners have moved on, the store has moved to a bigger spot at Lake Anne Plaza and the second generation of consignment shoppers and sellers are the new store regulars.

That includes Gerstein’s own now-grown children, who bring their three children by for some Grandma time among the kids’ stuff.

“It’s paradise when they come here,” she said.

Small Change is stocked — even crammed — with kids items, which are generally half of what you would pay retail. There is everything from everyday play clothes to high-end designer wear from Burberry. In winter, North Face jackets are a top seller, Gerstein says. In summer, shoppers are always looking for Keen sandals. Always in demand are pricey strollers (you can get your name on a waiting list if you are in the market for one).

Consignments (great condition only, please) are by appointment, and you can bring in about 25 items at a time. Consigners get a 50/50 split for items selling under $100; a 60/40 split for items over $100 (60 percent to the consigner). The consignment period is two months — you can shop against your credit balance or take cash at the end.

Small Change also carries new items — mostly toys and handmade goods. The store has a wide selection of Melissa and Doug wooden toys and puzzles, Bruder trucks and Guycraft toys. Local crafters make knitted dolls, baby blankets and other gift items.

Gerstein says she is eager to see what changes come to Lake Anne Plaza in the years ahead. She admits the plaza suffers from a lack of foot traffic, particularly in winter. The historic plaza won’t change much under the proposed revitalization plan, but redevelopment of nearby Crescent Apartments and the periphery of Lake Anne should bring more people to the area to live and to shop, she predicts.

“I am delighted [revitalization] is a go,” she said. “This will be a long process, though. It could take 8 to 10 years. I may still be here, but I can’t promise. But I only see positives with the changes. ”

Small Change Consignments is located at 1629 Washington Plaza. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To make a consignment appointment, call (703) 437-7730. For more info, visit the store’s website or Facebook page.

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