Black-owned consignment shop is a wellspring of positivity
The upbeat and optimistic Mary Ferguson is the proud owner of the Thrifty Nifty consignment shop located along University Avenue in St. Paul, MN. She established the popular business in 2017.
Ferguson is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in South Minneapolis. Before she worked hard to launch her shop, Ferguson would host a plethora of successful rummage sales. Her business was well received by the community. “I was doing yard sales in front of my house,” she recalled.
When Ferguson began her new enterprise, the Neighborhood Development Center [NDC] assisted her with developing a business plan. “I studied, got a laptop. I mapped it out, and what makes me different is that I do layaway at my thrift store,” Ferguson said.
Fortunately, Ferguson received a loan from NDC for her enterprise. In October 2017, she officially opened her store. “When I got my key I jumped for joy,” Ferguson recalled. Although she was ecstatic, she mentioned how she experienced a roadblock from her past. Ferguson was denied a loan to start her business.
She explained, “The bad thing is that I had a background [issue] in 2005, so they [NDC] denied me. I prayed to God because my life has been changed,” Ferguson said.
Undeterred, Ferguson focused on bringing the quaint consignment shop to fruition. She didn’t give up on her dream of opening a thrift store and went to the MN Supreme Court to advocate for herself and appeal her record. She was granted an opportunity to move forward with opening the business despite her past.
Like many local businesses, the COVID pandemic, civil unrest, and riots surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd had negatively impacted her business. But she sprang into action and started getting involved with George Floyd Square.
She explained, “There was nothing I could do, so I was on 38th and Chicago from Worldwide Church. My brother had got a table and I helped him.”
Ferguson added, “I went and got t-shirts made and I stayed out there on 38th and Chicago for 80 days.” Ferguson used her earnings to cover rent for Thrifty Nifty. While Ferguson was stationed at George Floyd Square, unfortunately, her business was broken into. She utilized scarce funds to repair the broken window.
Ferguson didn’t let such events prevent her from carrying on with business. “It took me to stay in the Lord’s hands. It took me to keep praying and not giving up. It took faith; I had to have faith in the Lord, and I never gave up.”
When customers shop at the TN consignment shop, they can expect exceptional customer service, affordable apparel, accessories, shoes, warm winter coats, and gifts. Ferguson resells gently used and new products. The shop is currently running a sale where patrons can fill up a bag for only $5 with designated products.
Ferguson added “Janie’s Boutique” to the store, which is her daughter’s new clothing business. “If they can do it, she can do it,” Ferguson said. Now customers have more options to choose from.
The most rewarding aspect about running a business is “helping people out, being there for those that can’t afford things. I like giving and being there for them,” Ferguson explained.
Although her business is a success, there are challenging moments as well. According to Ferguson, “It’s hard for me to get people in there [Thrifty Nifty]—marketing, trying to get help, publicity.” She encourages her customers to spread the word about her business.
Every entrepreneur possesses a different mindset to be successful. Ferguson shared her ideology: “Believing in yourself that you’re gonna do it and just be that happy person like everything is gonna go right. I don’t want to think no negative.”
She added, “I used to get mad when hardly [anybody] would come into the store, but I said you know what, today wasn’t a good day, tomorrow may not be one, but I will have a good day.” Although there can be difficult aspects of business, she tends to focus on the positive.
When asked about what motivates her to live the dream every day, she said, “Getting up and serving these people; I love opening up my doors—I like being there for them.” She is a social butterfly and an all-around “people person” who enjoys meeting new people.
Ferguson aspires to serve as a positive role model for her family. She shared advice for youth and budding entrepreneurs: “Live your dreams—don’t give up on it. Someone is going to help you. You have to ask though. Don’t be ashamed.”
She added, “Set your mind on what you want. It will happen—don’t give up.”
Thrifty Nifty is located at 741 University Ave. W., Suite #4, St. Paul, MN 55104. Business hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 7 pm; Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday 2:30 pm to 6 pm. For more information check out thrifty-nifty.business.site or call 612-601-2888.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.