For some people, consignment shopping is all about the hunt for a great bargain. Such is the case with Camille Harrington who has been an avid fan of the sport since 1996. For her there is something both exciting and rewarding about finding that perfect item that someone else no longer needed. Consignment shops sell items that belong to consignors who receive a percentage of the proceeds, while offering fabulous deals on clothing, accessories and household items to shoppers. These shops are a great place to find a $48 Vera Bradley bag for $12 bucks, as well as a wonderful resource for folks who find themselves in a position of looking for a new home for a lost loved one’s clothes, jewelry, treasures, etc.
Camille has a resilient spirit and a strong belief in second chances. After getting married in her early twenties, a marriage that ended after three years, she was a little gun shy to do it again. But in 1980 at the young age of 26 she met Frank Maloney who was 35. He caught her attention by treating her in a way she had never known.
“He was such a kind and gentle man,” says Camille. “He wanted to please me and take care of me. He was so sweet and just so loving. I had never met anyone like that before.”
Frank wanted to get married but she was very reluctant. And although she had been enamored by his charm and loving kindness, their relationship had its challenges. Franks addiction to marijuana was often stronger than his addiction to Camille and it created a lot of friction between them. Their relationship was a roller coaster of emotions and eventually she conceded to marry him. Nine months later in March of 1981 after another war of words about his addiction, she received the call no one wants to receive from the local police department. There had been an accident. Frank had life threatening injuries and was on life support at Hartford Hospital. He had massive internal injuries and she had to make the hardest decision of her life.
Unhappy with widowhood, in 1988 she married Bobby Donlan of Higganum, Connecticut and they divorced in 1994. “Upon reflection I think we didn’t work out because I was in a bad car accident and got Fibromyalgia brought on by the trauma. It took 1½ years to diagnose it, and another eight months until I felt better. During that time I had problems with sleeping, moodiness and was in pain all the time.” Then he lost his job and as things continued to go downhill, his children (from an earlier marriage) suggested they divorce, which they did.
Camille was finally feeling good and enjoyed the music and movement of country line dancing. She was also very active in the Irish Club in Glastonbury and had been teaching line dancing there. The club was hosting Ireland for the Special Olympics World Games and she was invited to be a part of it. She taught the Special Olympians line dancing. That was where she met John Harrington. They had known each other from the club a couple years prior but in 1996 they began dating and not one to waste time, they married in 1997.
“We’ve been married 18 years and of all the marriages I’ve had, this one is the best,” says Camille. “He let me be me. He was the one and only one who let me be myself. Even when we argue we’re friends, first and foremost friends. That’s probably why we are still together.”
During those past 18 years she discovered consignment shopping, taking advantage of finds that have included home décor, furniture, clothing and accessories. She is so enthusiastic about it she has introduced friends and family to it often dragging them along on her shopping expeditions.
“I will go anywhere in the state and travel as far as New Hampshire for a consignment shop,” she says. So what is the attraction? “It’s finding the bargain. I love the hunt.” She is a buyer at consignment shops but she also sells items, often turning her sales into store credit to purchase “new” (to her) items. “It’s easy enough to bag my stuff up and take it to Goodwill, but why shouldn’t I get something for it if I can? I’m a shopper. And I buy nice clothes.” One of her favorite shops is Cedar Chest Ladies Consignment Boutique in Clinton, Connecticut. This shop has higher end boutique style items according to owner Nancy Briggs who owns three Cedar Chests. There is the one in Clinton, another in Branford and one in Old Saybrook that just opened earlier this year. Branford and Old Saybrook stores are more family friendly and offer furniture, decorative and household items as well as men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories.
“Consignment is all about recycling and being green,” says Nancy. “You bring in stuff you haven’t worn in a while, leave it with us and have money in your account. It’s a smart way to shop. People think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
And so does Camille. “I made $90 last month.” She brings things in to sell a couple times a year but goes in to buy all year round. “You can walk out with a huge bag of clothes for under a hundred dollars.” One of her favorite finds came from a shop in Westerly, Rhode Island. She happened upon an antique wristwatch still in the original box for $100. It turned out to be worth $300 because of its jeweled mechanism. “If you go continuously you get an education and know what to look for. I think more people go consignment shopping now because they are more educated.” And in the spirit of supply and demand, she has seen prices rise a little as interest in consignment shopping grows.
“Initially I started consignment shopping because of lack of funds and I wanted to dress nice. I still do it for the great prices but I love a good bargain. I want unique items to blend in with my antiques and vintage is really big now. Overall I think shopping for me is a stress reliever. I can go and get lost for hours shopping. I’m not a shopaholic. I don’t buy out of control. I just enjoy the process, going from shop to shop to see what they have, sometimes for myself and sometimes for a holiday gift.”
Despite the rough and rocky road she has had in her relationships, her perseverance and optimism has gotten her through it all. And when she isn’t on the hunt for a good bargain, she can be found volunteering as she has for the past eight years at the Connecticut Mission of Mercy Free Dental Clinic that takes place annually. Held at Western Connecticut State University this year, Camille was one of 1,322 volunteers that provided $1,650,000 in free oral health care to 1,997 patients. Why does she do it every year?
“I started volunteering because it was something I was asked to do for work because of the dental supplies needed. But by the second day I was hooked. You just smile inside doing it. It is a wonderful thing to do. Everyone should volunteer at something, because it makes you a better, nicer person. And my husband is extremely proud of me. I was 42 when John and I were married and although I was not his first wife, I am the best one.”