When small clothiers went out of business in New York or elsewhere, Kevin Reeves’ father, Domer, would travel from Charlotte to his colleagues’ stores to help them run closing sales. Some of those stores’ fixtures would make their way back to the Reeves family garage.
Then a large retailer in Monroe, a Peebles store, closed. And “that pretty much started it,” Kevin Reeves now says.
“It” would be Reeves Enterprises Store Fixtures and Equipment, run out of three warehouses at 3514 Performance Road in Charlotte. Started by Domer 35 years ago, the family venture is considered a must-stop, first-stop among many small-business owners in search of furnishings for their stores - shelving, mirrors, mannequins, safes, signage, clothing racks and more.
“I’ve opened seven stores with this guy...he always gives a good deal,” according to Amin Jawad, who was at Reeves Enterprises last week, buying showcases and shelves for his phones and clothing businesses in Columbia, S.C.
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Jawad says while he’ll check out other competitors’ stores in the region, he winds up returning to Reeves for the prices and selection: “You need to come and see.”
A small-business bonanza
Items inside the display warehouse look familiar to anyone who has been inside drugstores like CVS, or retailers like Nordstrom or Office Max. There are Foster Grant sunglasses displays, body forms, clothing racks, aisle signs for cough syrups, gum and mints, facial moisturizers.
When a store closes, Reeves and his team go in. “We’re part of a group that’s able to work with them and clean them out,” says Reeves, 53, adding that their territory has included Kentucky, the Carolinas and Georgia.
They buy the items and break down the equipment. They’ll resell the on-site to interested buyers, or truck it back to their five-acre location in Charlotte, where products are sorted for display or storage.
Through e-newsletters and social media, they’ll get the word out about available items. Pharmacy shelving appeals to independent drug stores. Jewelry drawers interest vape shops. Other clients are beauty supply places, hardware stores, auto parts businesses, convenience stores, liquor stores in South Carolina and Georgia, and ethnic grocery businesses.
“We offer delivery and installation,” Reeves says. “We try to be a one-stop shop”
Some of the more oddball items to come through: an examination table with stirrups, and a 15-foot Krispy Kreme sign out of the airport.
Reeves Enterprises has also rented items to local theater productions and shows filmed in the area, like Homeland and Banshee.
Depending on the type of business, owners can spend anywhere from $100 to $10,000, although the typical expense is in the low thousands, Reeves says.
Keeping the pack rats out
Domer Reeves, now 73, ran Domer’s Men Shop at Freedom Mall before starting the store fixtures enterprise. Kevin took over the family business 20 years ago.
One of the challenges over the years has been predicting what may be a hot seller, and what is just plain junk. As Blockbuster went out of business, Reeves fielded lots of offers for video racks. But he knew there would be little demand for those as the technology switched over to discs.
“It becomes trash,” he says. “You can’t just continually buy, buy, buy if people are not buying from us...You have to be more picky.”
“...That’s a constant battle, being something of a pack rat.”
He says business, run by a staff of eight, is better these days than before the recession. “This last year we climbed just above where we had been at, before things went south.”
Online selling is playing a larger role than ever before in the business. Office manager Beth Wallin maintains a list of customers in search of particular items; they’ll get an email if the item comes in. The business posts sales on Craig’s List and Facebook, in addition to its e-newsletter.
Wallin also helps design projects for clients. For one customer, who was furnishing a baby store, Wallin helped outfit the space by sending photos of shelving, clothing racks and wall displays that would work.
“What she does is what I see as the future of the company,” Reeves says.
Although prices are somewhat firm, Reeves gets hagglers all the time, looking to strike a deal.
“There are times when we do something that may cost us money, but when they leave, I want them to be happy.”
“That’s probably one of the biggest thrills for us...We have people who come in, they’ve dreamed of opening their own business. We’re helping them realize it.”