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  • Writer's pictureKarla Ray

Warehaus Of Mid-Century 'Clutter' Allows Couple To Cut Ties With Corporate

No new clothes.

For the last six months, I’ve been on a sustainability mission to cycle my wardrobe by buying solely secondhand.

As a television news anchor and reporter, you can imagine the volume of clothes I have in my possession at any given time- you’d be shocked at how good viewers’ memories are if you repeat outfits too often.

Couple my profession with the fact that I’ve been trying to find and refine my personal style since becoming a mom (and getting control of my anxiety, which you can read more about here), and I am sourcing thrift shops, consignment stores, and resale websites like Poshmark and ThredUp more than I’d like to admit.

The number of packages coming to my door has gotten quite annoying to my husband, and I’ve been flagged as a regular at my favorite Goodwill- which is only slightly embarrassing.

I am really good at thrifting.

It’s a strange juxtaposition that what’s now a source of pride for me was once a source of embarrassment.

As a kid, all I wanted was to wear the same brands as my classmates, but we just could not afford to pay retail. My mom would instead scour thrift stores for the lowest-priced Z. Cavaricci, Guess, and Calvin Klein items she could find, even if they weren’t in my size, and would then use her sewing skills to take the labels and affix them to the bargain brands from our nearest ALCO or K-Mart.

I will never forget the time my parents scrounged enough money to get me a real pair of Calvin Klein jeans- considered the best and most prestigious brand at the time- and the guilt I felt when I gained weight and they no longer fit.

NOW I know that no one would’ve ever known the difference between a pair of jeans from Goodwill or a pair from the mall… but then, it felt like I was in a different class in the caste system.

In a lot of ways, we were.

My family had always been the recipient of the discarded items from those better off; upperclassmen and cousins handed down clothes to us (which never fit me correctly because even though they were older, I was always a bigger size)-- my college roommate and I practically slept with our noses to the ceiling of our dorm room because my dad insisted on buying a homemade loft secondhand off of another girl in our hometown even though it was WAY too tall (with a gross, pre-cut piece of carpet included to go on the floor below)- and before I moved to Florida, none of the vehicles I had owned were ever cost more than $2500 (total). When I graduated college and had to furnish my first apartment, my living room set was purchased at a garage sale- along with the bedframe I had until I got married.

So while it’s only now a major part of my daily life, buying secondhand has always been part of my story. What I never considered is that sourcing the scores that I find myself bragging about- whether it be an outfit or furniture- is a skill so valuable it can become a full-fledged business.

That wasn’t the intent when Janelle and Jonathan Schwartz sold their first set of mid-century furniture.

In fact, they didn’t actually know what they were selling.

“I had this habit of stockpiling furniture- I come from a long line of people that just like to buy things and reuse them… particularly my mother… and she would take me to these garage sales and all of these things, and I had a habit of collecting these things with the intention of turning them into something that I would use,” Janelle Schwartz said. “It just got to a point where I started collecting too much, and it was in a third bedroom in the house we were renting… every time [Jonathan] would go in there, he'd be like, you need to get rid of something… we’re not even using it.”

A true yin and yang; the collection Janelle had built just looked like clutter to Jonathan. He begged his now-wife for something from the stockpile that could go up for sale. She settled on a set of pink painted chairs she had purchased for around $30.

“He posted it, and he just got this really insane reaction from people wanting to drive from really far to buy these chairs,” Janelle remembers. “It was ridiculous.”

The buyer wound up coming from two hours away to get the Craigslist chairs, offering double what the couple was asking in order to hold them so she could make the drive.

“I’ve been in sales and marketing for pretty much my whole adult life, and it was like a light bulb went off,” Jonathan said. “The lady came, and she actually gave us a lot of information, and told me those were mid-century. I didn’t even know what that term was… but I told [Janelle] go get me more mid-century, whatever that is.”

Both in corporate jobs, the two used the secondhand furniture finds to pay for their wedding, and soon they started to stockpile cash instead of clutter.

A $75 dresser turned into a $900 resale, and Jonathan knew they’d hit on something that could be lifechanging.

“He's very business-minded,” Janelle said. “I am not that person. I’m a daydreamer. But he is very business-goal-minded.”

Though he had the business background, from a practical standpoint, refinishing and flipping furniture wasn’t what anyone would have expected from Jonathan. He admits in addition to not really knowing what mid-century furniture was, he also was not a handy fixer.

“I never used a power tool in my life before all this, ever,” Jonathan said.

“It’s comical, because he has a finance background,” Janelle said. “He’s more of a techie guy, and he’s just someone who can function more with system sand things like that, versus hands-on carpentry and stuff like that.”

But just like you can’t build a furniture business without learning those skills, you wouldn’t be able to keep it afloat without the business mindset. The two had the secret sauce without even realizing it.

“If it was just me, it would have never turned into what it is. It had to be the right combination of efforts because I am simply just not that motivated in the sense of structuring this into something that benefits me,” Janelle said. “That’s how that ended up happening.”

It wasn’t long before Jonathan had taught himself to fix up their furniture finds, and the time spent in the carport of the home they were in working with power tools started to surpass the hours he was working in his corporate role- a rare pre-COVID remote position.

“I was working in my office during the day… and I kept finding myself leaning into the carport, which is where all the furniture was,” Jonathan said. “I could not get off the computer fast enough, I just wanted to be outside and use my hands, and be creative.”

There was very little competition for the couple at the time- just about anything they found, they could sell.

“Once I saw that I could, if I dedicated all my time to this versus half my time, I could make a real business out of it,” Jonathan said.

He was first to decide to drop his full-time gig to take on entrepreneurship, but not without careful planning.

“There were synergies that we didn't realize were there,” he said of all the jobs he had worked in corporate, mostly in sales and marketing. “Every experience that I had in corporate gave me kind of the tools that I didn't really know I was going to need as an entrepreneur.”

Now let’s not get it twisted- people aren’t quitting their jobs, especially high-ranking, high-paying jobs, without having some money in the bank. Full stop. I feel like this is a misconception based on the constant barrage of #bossmoves we see on social media, and every person I’ve interviewed for this blog has told me the same thing: financial security is crucial when making this leap.

Jonathan set a goal to set aside the couples’ mortgage for one year before walking away.

“I told [Janelle], I had a target number in mind,” Jonathan said. “If I hit this number, I'm going to leave. I knew I could always go back and get another job or something, but something inside of me said, you have got to try this.”

Going all-in on a dream, even with money in the bank, is scary. It goes against everything we’ve ever been taught about how to structure your budget; most of us have been reliant on a paycheck every two weeks for all of our adult lives. The more time Jonathan had to dedicate to growing Warehaus, the more it took off- but it still took Janelle some time to join him.

“I’m not a risk taker in that regard,” Janelle said. “I was on my own at a very early age, and I had to support myself, so I felt like I needed the dependency of reliable income.”

Janelle and I seem to have had similar childhoods, with that scarcity mindset threaded into our subconscious like the thread holding the Goodwill labels onto my Kmart jeans.

“There's this mindset that you have to hustle all the time, and that you need to survive,” Janelle said. “We’ve had to pivot our whole lives to continue to support ourselves, so you learn that when things are not going the way you want them to, you have this survival mentality to make it work. You don’t have any other option.”

They didn’t just survive, though. Business was thriving. At that time, most of their sales were on Craigslist and Etsy, and social media sales hadn’t really hit the fever pitch they have today. The buyers they had were all over the country, and from all walks of life, including celebrities.

“Someone bought a table for John Malkovich in New York, and then when Orange Is The New Black came out, the lead actress bought these lamps from us that were really cool,” Janelle said. “And we had these conversations, many conversations, where [Jonathan] just assured me that if we were both in this, it would take off, and it would do two or three times more than what it was doing.”

In my own journey of self-improvement, I’ve learned a little bit about limiting beliefs and how they are the saboteur in our success. Janelle held the limiting belief that she could not possibly leave her corporate role, even as Warehaus continued to grow.

“I didn’t see the value in myself or what I could contribute to what he was doing,” Janelle said. “I’m good at finding things, it’s being the eye for the company to find things that were suitable for our audience, and he kept saying, I need you... you don’t understand.”

Jonathan knew that together, with both of them focusing on growing their side hustle full-time, they’d be unstoppable.

“He convinced me of my value. I did not know my value,” Janelle said. “In working for a lot of places where you’re just considered a number a lot of the time, you don’t really feel like you’re given that value. And he gave me that value. He still does.”

“I had very low self-esteem when it came to my work. I would go above and beyond for everybody, and above my title, above my position, always to give extra, and it was never appreciated,” Janelle said. “He said, you know, you keep giving to these people, and instead, you could give it to us, and it would benefit us.”

The pull got even stronger when the couple’s son, Sebastian, was born.

“I said, you’re on permanent maternity now. Tell them you’re not coming back,” Jonathan said. “This particular job, I really disliked the way they treated her. She was underappreciated. She was an absolute monster for them, a gold nugget, and they didn’t see it. They treated her so poorly. The management was just very unappreciative and aggressive. I was like… why would you go back to that, just for a guaranteed paycheck? It’s not worth it.”

King. Energy.

That was 2018, and neither has worked for anyone else since.

“I can say, to his foresight, we really grew exponentially from that point on,” Janelle said. “That played a huge role in us starting the physical location.”

After a short stint in Seminole County, Warehaus found its permanent home, a literal warehouse, in College Park in 2020. Of course, we all know what else happened in 2020, but it didn’t hurt sales as most of their business was online, anyway. They saw a huge boost to their social media following, and became a space for socially-distant social gatherings, growing community as well as their clout.

“That’s when things started to really roll with selling things locally, dealing with local people, versus selling everything out of state,” Jonathan recalled. “It just kind of started to snowball.”

The family was all-in; Sebastian would be strapped to Janelle in a baby carrier scouring estate sales in the early days.

That’s since evolved- now, estate companies contact Warehaus first for bulk buys before the general public even knows what’s coming.

“We still like digging through boxes and records and books and all the cool little intricacies of someone's house, a lifetime collection,” Jonathan said. “That's the stuff, I think, after all these years of flipping large furniture… that's the fun part for us. Being able to get in there, and dig through someone's lifetime collection of things.”

So when does the comfort come amid entrepreneurial uncertainty?

“I don't know that there really is any getting past it,” Janelle said. “When you're so used to this societal norm of having to be constantly on, and constantly working, and to survive… it’ was a survival thing for me.”

Data collection helps to ease those worries- by now, the couple has several years of books to prove their formula is a money-maker. Not only is the business financially feasible, but it has given them the freedom that a steady paycheck from a corporate position never could.

“Your wealth comes in your freedom, your time, your ability… if your kid gets sick, you can pick them up and bring them home and hang out with them for the day, or take a bike ride on a Tuesday morning at 9:30, or come home early if you want,” Jonathan said. “Or, you know, le’ts talk to Karla at 10:30 on a Thursday, because you want to.”

(So grateful for that over here!)

“There’s so much wealth in that,” Janelle echoed. “I volunteer at my kid’s school, and he sees me often there, and it’s a great thing for him to experience. We didn’t have that. That’s just really cool to be able to give him that experience.”

The family affair didn’t stop when Sebastian was old enough to ditch the baby carrier; he’s in the store and is an entrepreneur of his own, trying to find ways to earn money and learning about the business, all before entering grade school.

“We’ve always been so tethered to a punch clock, at a 9 to 5, that freedom is worth all the sweat,” Jonathan said. “It’s just a different life.”

From not knowing how to sand furniture (or really knowing much about the iconic era of mid-century) to building an eclectic, booming business… all while building a family and refining their own home décor sense.

The biggest lesson I learned from Janelle and Jonathan?

You’re probably more qualified than you think.

Everything you’ve done up to this point counts as experience toward your big dream.

“That’s the hardest part, I think, is applying your creative thoughts and the dream or the visions that you have… once it actually gets noticed by other people, and you start making money, that's where a lot of people get jammed up,” Jonathan said. “Forecasting, growth, profit and loss, all that stuff gets really intense when you’re just trying to create something.”

In business, like in life, it’s helpful to have a partner. A yin to your yang.

“I can’t imagine it being a one-person job, where someone has to wear all those different hats,” Janelle said.

The second big takeaway from our conversation: Let your corporate job fund your dream job.

(Jonathan said it, not me.)

“The most important thing is to have security financially, before you make the jump, you need to have something to fall back on so that you don’t have that pressure initially,” Jonathan said. “Work your passion, and use whatever you make from that job, hold onto it until you have enough to say- even if things go belly up- I’m good. That gives you the space and freedom to create, to pivot, to try new things.”

From clutter to Craigslist to a new career path- all born out of a side hustle neither expected.

Doesn’t it make you want to drive around and look for discarded furniture to flip?!

“I consider myself a dreamer, and I just keep trying to change the game a little bit every time I do something,” Jonathan said. “You have to keep kind of leveling up to stay relevant and stay busy. That’s kind of what we’re doing.”

“Warehaus is just the evolution of ideas.”

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