Stephanie Longshore’s experience with Winmark® resale franchises spans two and a half decades, three brands and three generations of family-run businesses.
In 1994, Stephanie and her husband opened their first Winmark franchise location, Once Upon A Child®, in their neighboring town of Williston, Vermont. Eight years later, they branched out beyond the children’s resale brand, expanding their footprint with a Plato’s Closet® clothing franchise.
And most recently, in 2017, the Longshores opened a Style Encore® franchise – this time, with the help of their two daughters and Stephanie’s sister, Roberta.
“I think a lot of original store owners are now passing the business on to their children, and the stores are moving on to second generation ownership,” Stephanie said. “When my husband and I opened our Once Upon A Child in 1994, we were one of the brand’s first franchise locations, and now we’re approaching retirement.”
The Strength of a Sustainable Business Model
Stephanie first learned about the Once Upon A Child brand when she was pregnant with her eldest daughter, Katie.
“My mother-in-law, Jaci, lived in Columbus, Ohio, at the time, and she would send me care packages full of these amazing products from her local Once Upon A Child store,” Stephanie said. “When I learned it was a resale business, I knew it could be a popular and much-needed business in Vermont – particularly because of the eco-friendly nature of the resale model.”
Vermont consistently ranks as one of the greenest states in the U.S., and it has a long history of environmentalism – even pre-dating its 1968 landmark anti-billboard laws.
“In the early and mid-90s, you didn’t hear as much about the environment on a national level, but as long as I’ve lived in Vermont, it’s always seemed to be a shared priority among residents here,” Stephanie said. “So, when we learned more about Once Upon A Child, we knew we had to bring these quality, cost-effective and recycled products – and sustainable business – to our community.”
At the time, Stephanie and her husband both worked at the same large corporation but decided it was time to start building a business of their own. They opened a Once Upon A Child resale franchise, and the business took off right away.
The Longshores ended up expanding their store footprint twice within the first several years – doubling and then tripling their square footage to accommodate growing inventory and demand.
“My mother, Grace, was in banking at the time, and she quit her job to come help us out with the Once Upon A Child store,” Stephanie said.
After so much growth and moving twice to larger locations to accommodate that growth, they decided it was time to expand with another brand. An additional Winmark resale franchise brand was the obvious choice, since they had so much success with the first.
A Resale Franchise Concept for the Ages
In 2002, the Longshores opened a Plato’s Closet location, right next door to their Once Upon A Child. Stephanie’s sister also came to help out with the new business.
“At that point, I was mostly running the Once Upon A Child, Roberta was running the Plato’s Closet, and my mother handled all the bookkeeping for both,” Stephanie said. “My daughters were still young at the time, but when they were older and in high school, they also worked at the Plato’s Closet, so it’s really been a family-run business all along.”
Incidentally, the course of the Longshores’ business expansion mirrored the progression of their daughters’ lives, as they grew up alongside the brands.
“We opened the Once Upon A Child, which specializes in toddler and children’s products, when my daughter Katie was just two years old, and Alexandra wasn’t even born yet,” Stephanie said. “Then, we opened the Plato’s Closet, which primarily caters to teenage girls, when my daughters were around the same age. And then, we opened the Style Encore, which offers more business-oriented clothing for young professionals, when Katie and Alexandra were 25 and 21 years old – the exact same demographic as many of the women who shop at our Style Encore.”
The idea to expand the business again with Style Encore came about when Stephanie’s daughters approached her about opening the franchise.
“Alexandra was still in college at the time, and Katie was living in Michigan with her husband and working as a teacher,” Stephanie said. “But, I thought it was a great idea for a legacy investment, and I was excited that they wanted to get involved.”
Opening a Third Resale Franchise with the Third Generation
In 2017, Stephanie, Katie, Alexandra and Roberta celebrated the grand opening of their Style Encore franchise – the same week they celebrated the 15th anniversary of their Plato’s Closet franchise.
“The opening was bittersweet because my mother passed away from cancer several years prior, and she played such a huge role in the businesses and community, giving up so much to be here with us to help out,” Stephanie said. “She really left a huge and irreplaceable void in all our lives, both within the family and in the community. Everyone in the community knew her, and they have always been so supportive and kind, always checking in and asking how she was doing after the diagnosis.”
Among other factors, Stephanie says one of the most rewarding parts of business ownership is getting to know the community and developing strong, long-lasting relationships with customers.
“Our experience in business has been amazing and extremely fulfilling,” Stephanie said. “We’re really fortunate because our community shows us so much support – whether it’s getting to know us and asking about our family, stopping by the stores to buy or sell their [gently] used clothing or getting involved in our stores’ fundraisers and other philanthropies.”
At the same time, Stephanie is looking forward to passing the torch and taking a step back from business ownership to travel more with her husband. Given the continued success of her resale franchises, she’s leaving her daughters in good hands.
“Our stores have always performed well, in terms of revenue, within the Winmark franchise system, which we are always excited about in our little Vermont market,” Stephanie said. “And I’m happy to see how much my daughters already absolutely love running the business.”
To learn more about franchise opportunities with Winmark resale franchise brands, contact us today.