Local business owner Tom Sobieski has created a new, community building, retail experience that is totally unique in SLC. IconoCLAD sells your "previously rocked" clothing, and gives you half the profit. They support sustainability by giving things a second life, and infusing money straight into the local economy (your pocket!). What doesn't sell, they donate to local charities such as the Homeless Youth Resource Center. They also recycle and upcycle building materials for shop hardware, including clothing racks made from used shipping pallets!
SLConscious had an opportunity to visit with Tom, about his exciting new project.
(Photo credit: Dave Trockman)
So Tom, what was your professional life like, prior to becoming a local legend and fashionista extraordinaire?
- Fashionista extraordinaire? I don't know about that, but I do feel a little more obligated to dress fancier, having a clothing store and all. One of the girls here says I'm not allowed to wear Shopko pants anymore.
Anyhow, I was an insurance broker and underwriter for over four years after graduating from the David Eccles School of Business. I tried to do the whole business professional thing, but it totally wasn't my gig. I'm too colorful and restless to be happy in a job like that.
And what inspired you to finally shift gears so profoundly?
- I actually quit my job with no definite plans, in December, 2013. I spent some time applying to jobs and trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had always thought it would be fun to open a store like this, but I didn't quit my job thinking that was the plan. I remember the moment it really hit me that I needed to try my shop idea out. I was laying awake in bed in the morning, and I couldn't sleep because I was too excited about the possibilities. I knew I'd never forgive myself if I didn't step out on a limb and try to chase a dream. I didn't want to look back from another job I didn't like after failing to reinvent myself and say, "Damn, I really wonder what would have happened".
What did you want to be, when you growed up, and how close to your target have you landed?
- I had no idea. I went to business school with the idea in mind that I didn't know what I wanted to do, but that when I figured it out I could go into business with it. I went into marketing because that's where all the fun was. After trying to be a grown-up and not really liking it, I guess it all panned out beautifully.
Real quick-like explain to us readers how “consignment” works, and why you chose this format.
- That's a good question because I've found that most of my target market is kind of familiar with the word, but not the process. With Consignment you, the consumer, technically still own the item, and we just sell it on your behalf. So, you bring in a bag of items that you are looking to part with, we enter your info into our system, tag all of your stuff to be identified as yours. Then, once your item sells, you get 50% of the sales price (minus a small fee we put on there for steam cleaning to pay for the fancy-pants system, listing things online, etc.). You can visit a web page and see each of your listed items, their price, which have sold, the balance we owe you, and any messages/love letters from us.
It was important for me to use this consignment format vs. the more familiar buy-upfront modality that other stores in the area use. I wanted this to be "the everyone show", not just the "me" show. I want to people to get involved, to care about what they're bringing in, and the quality of the whole operation. I want people to make good money on their awesome "previously rocked" stuff and attract the best items for the store, that way. I also did it to differentiate iconoCLAD from other resale stores. I've always loved thrift and resale stores and I wanted to set myself apart/not step on their toes.
What has been the most surprising/unexpected element in starting up a new small business in SLC?
- Typically in life I over-analyze everything to death, to leave as few surprises as possible. However, I'd probably say the great deal of attention and support for the project. As I mentioned, I wanted to this be the "everyone show" for cool art, clothes, and the like, so seeing a lot of involvement from unexpected places has been very touching and amazing. Also, I typically enjoy anonymity. Needing to put iconoCLAD and myself out there in the spotlight can be unnerving.
What is the most important thing that people should know about your store?
- CAUTION:BEWARE OF SHOP CATS!
Not really, they're sweethearts. And if I'm going to be here 12 hours a day, I want them here with me. :)
We have noticed that your store is owned, managed, and staffed by 100% attractive, skilled, and brilliant men and women. Is this part of a diabolical plot to draw in passers-by with your loveliness and eye candy? Or is this just a coincidence?
- This is a loaded question. You leave me two choices, 1) trying to convince you we're all hideous idiots or 2) awkwardly congratulating ourselves for being attractive and smart. Curse you!
It's a total coincidence. During the final weeks to prep to open, it quickly became a "who's available and what do they know?" game. I suddenly found that the biggest need (and shortfall) that I had was people knowledgeable in ladies' fashion brands. I luckily had one person in my close friend group that was able to fill that spot quickly, and another one fell into place after an interview. It was interesting timing though, because some of the people who has helped out were out of town at a festival that week, so the fate of official employment decisions was steered a bit by that.
You have chosen to buck the standard, and be open on Sundays. Tell us, heathen, what evil inspiration has driven you to break one of the commandments?
- Ha, well, I'm pouring myself into this 100%. If I can be down here, keeping the store open, to try and make that extra dollar, I will. After the grueling labor to get this place actually built, 70 hour work weeks don't feel that bad.
Your front door mentions something about stumbling into work each morning with a hangover. Do you have an alcohol issue that you would like to disclose, at this time? Remember… the first step to healing is admitting that you have a problem. Here’s your opportunity We won’t judge!
- Nah. I actually don't drink all that much. I chose to write that to set the tone of the store as a fun place that doesn't take itself too seriously. Consequently, our little door sign went viral, ending up on the first and fourth page of Reddit's front page and funny page, respectively, and the front page of Imgur. Gotta love the internet.
See link for viral photo: http://imgur.com/gallery/CUBN3xB
So reader, get downtown and see for yourself what iconoCLAD has to offer. Meet Tom and his shop-cats, and maybe even bring him some sweet gear to consign. Support local, sustainable business, and have fun!
414 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, Utah
Mon. - Sat. 11:00 - 9:00
Sun. 1:00 - 6:00