The economic recession that doesn't seem willing to loosen its grip on the nation has been the cause of many businesses closing their doors for good.
Not so at Columbia's Greenberries, a consignment shop specializing in clothing, gear and other items for babies, children and expectant mothers.
Because of the economy, which has forced consumers to be more frugal with fewer dollars available for non-neccessities, Greenberries is booming, according to owner Rachel Baliff.
Originally opened in 2009 in a 500-square-foot retail space, the store recently moved to a 2,200-square-foot space in Snowden Center.
The attractive space is filled with both new items like toys, books and accessories and gently used items on consignment.
"The economy has had the opposite effect on consignment shops," Baliff, 42, said last week. "That's why it made sense to go ahead and open this business in the middle of a bad economy."
The consignment model benefits all who use the business, Baliff believes.
As the owner, she gets a percentage of the sale of each item sold. The original owners make money, and shoppers save 50 percent — or more — off retail prices by buying used items, Baliff said.
Baliff spent about 15 years in the corporate world of human resources and employment recruiting but always knew she wanted to open her own business.
With that seed already planted, she studied entrepreneurship while getting her master's degree in marketing in the late 1990s.
The Silver Spring native's original business model was for a home furnishings shop.
But she saw the need for a consignment shop and started studying existing businesses and talking to shop owners to set up her own business.
"Consigning is a very complex situation and you have to be very organized," she said. "We have a comprehensive inventory system — everything is bar-coded and each consigner has a code so sales are properly reported and credited to the seller."
The consignment agreement itself is complex because it's important to let consigners know exactly what to expect and exactly what they'll make on the sale of their items and how they'll be paid, Baliff said.
"That agreement grew as we got to know the business better and saw what was missing from it," she said.
The store is well-stocked with clothing sized for infants through children's size 10. Shoppers can also find shoes, socks, books, strollers, toys and other items.
Greenberries also sells cloth diapers and offers Cloth Diapering 101 to new mothers.
Expectant mothers have their choice of clothing, which is "very expensive new" and used for just a few months, Baliff said.
Ellicott City resident Colleen Higgins recently visited Greenberries for the first time.
While her 2-year-old son Liam made use of the play area, Higgins perused the store's racks.
"I like to save money, and I have an eye for higher quality items," she said. "I could tell as soon as I walked in here that they have nice things."
The larger space has allowed Baliff to increase the workshop offerings, which include instructions for making homemade baby food, baby-wearing (how to carry babies in accessories on the mother's body), yoga, baby sign language and Mommy and Me cooking, crafts and fitness classes.
It's in the back of Baliff's mind that her business could suffer should the economy ever rebound.
"It could effect us, but I'm hoping the reputation I've built, and the brands people know they can get here will keep us going," she said.
Many economists believe Americans have truly changed their spending and saving habits because of the prolonged length of the recession, which would be good news to Greenberries and other stores like it.
"We're providing a store that's needed with goods people want," Baliff said. "I could see making a life-long career of this store."
The hours are long; the shop is open seven days a week and the work can be back-breaking, Baliff said.
"But I'm lucky because I have great staff and I have great customers," she said. "We're here to stay."