By Connor Dziawura
he COVID-19 pandemic came at an unfortunate time for Avery Lane, a consignment store that specializes in items on the high end, from furniture, antiques and fine art to other home accessories.
After seeing steady growth and expansion over the first several years in the Airpark, owner Darlene Richert signed for yet another expansion in December 2019, pushing the showroom past 30,000 square feet.
But almost as soon as construction finished and Avery Lane reopened in mid-March 2020, its doors closed again.
“We opened up March 14 after me having five 80-hour work weeks in a row … and then we closed again on the 17th,” Richert recalls. “So, it was an absolute shell shock, because I had just signed a big, major lease and got all the construction and all the work — so a little scary.”
One might expect a small business like Avery Lane to see a decline; instead, Richert notes a 10% increase in business from 2019 to 2020, beating her projections and marking a record year of growth. She expects this year to be even better.
“(I’m) really happy with how we were able to weather through that storm,” she says.
Richert says she kept busy while the shop’s doors were closed, fulfilling prior commitments to clients who were selling homes and moving — while also avoiding furloughing employees.
For a while she began to operate by appointment only, and she admits she was “one of the people who crossed the line” by reopening early despite the governor issuing a stay-at-home order last spring.
“But at 30,000 square feet, I felt people could social distance and everything as easily in my showroom as they could at Home Depot or Costco or Target or their grocery store,” she explains.
Like its expansions in the literal sense, selling art has been figuratively transformative for Avery Lane in recent years. Throughout the first handful, Richert found herself receiving frequent calls from clients asking her to take their collections. But after repeatedly turning down such offers, she reconsidered.
“Finally, I thought, ‘Wait a second, clearly there’s a need for this,’” she explains. “And so I started taking these beautiful, magnificent, original art.”
When Richert opened the shop in 2012 at roughly a third of its current size, she says the already established stores in the Valley targeted the low to mid market — and she didn’t want to be just one more competitor, which is why she aims to curate an upscale inventory, one which rotates regularly.
“Because my connections were all on the high end, I wanted to do things that would be very luxurious, that would go into these second homes up in the golf communities north of us — in the Desert Highlands, the Desert Mountain, Troon, Silverleaf, DC Ranch,” she explains, noting a background in sales and marketing in golf development. “And so I wanted to attract that buyer and showcase very beautiful furniture, because there really was nowhere for them to go.”
As such, her goal is for Avery Lane to be “exquisite,” with furniture of all different colors and textures that come from recognizable, esteemed names such as Theodore Alexander and Maitland-Smith. Clients have included anyone from CEOs to golf and baseball athletes.
There’s even a separate boutique inside called Pagoda Lane, which Richert says has also expanded, now encompassing roughly 2,200 square feet. Its owners’ specialties range from home decor to accessories like handbags and jewelry.
“What I’m trying to do at Avery Lane is really create a showroom that really kind of fills all your senses,” Richert describes. “You look at amazing chandeliers, they’re one of a kind, you haven’t seen them anywhere else; you look at sofas, all different colors; we put beautiful florals on the coffee tables; and on the dining room tables we have china and crystal. So, it’s like walking through kind of like a madman’s mansion, because everybody’s obviously a little different, but every room is beautiful in and of itself.”
She hopes to create an experience and a “party atmosphere” — achieved, she says, by playing music in the showrooms, serving champagne, and having quality salespeople.
“We’re really trying to create something different than just a place to buy furniture,” Richert explains.
That’s all the more apparent when Avery Lane holds fundraisers, concerts and other events in-store, something the pandemic has put on pause. Nevertheless, Richert is hopeful things are turning around.
“Quite honestly, it’s been a really tough year for us, because that’s what we love doing,” she says. “We love having those events. We love having everybody come, and our clients love it and it’s kind of become part of their social calendar, is, ‘What is Avery Lane doing?’ And so we really hope to, once COVID lifts, bring that back in a big way. So, hopefully this fall we can bring that back.”
Because Richert emphasizes the importance to her of being a part of the community, Avery Lane sponsors the Scottsdale Philharmonic and supports organizations such as Rosie’s House, Arizona Helping Hands, K2 Adventures Foundation and Send Me On Vacation. And she says she encourages philanthropy to other Airpark businesses whom she knows.
“It is one of the core values for me as a person, and it’s one of the core values for our company, is giving back,” Richert says. “We love being extremely philanthropic for causes that we believe in.” ν