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Ambika turns talent for bargain hunting into a business

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Ambika Scott of Once Upon A Thrift with some of her wares (Photograph supplied)
Treasures sold through Ambika Scott’s Once Upon A Thrift (Photograph supplied)
Treasures sold through Ambika Scott’s Once Upon A Thrift (Photograph supplied)

When Ambika Scott spotted a pair of Marc Jacobs ankle boots selling for less than $5 a few months ago, she snatched them up.

She knows a bargain when she sees one.

“They are worth about $500,” she said. “They are a collector’s item.”

The shoes are one of the many items she has for sale through her new online business, Once Upon A Thrift.

Ms Scott has been running two businesses, Moongate Realty and Moongate Cleaning Services, for several years, but started Once Upon A Thrift in August last year. During the pandemic she wanted another revenue generator.

“I have been thrift shopping for quite some time and I really enjoy it,” Ms Scott said. “So, I thought, why not generate an income from it as a side business.”

She now sells everything from gently used clothing to paintings, shoes and kitchenware.

But she admits she did not always love bargain hunting.

“When I was a teenager my mother would take me and my friend and her friend thrift shopping at places like The Barn in Devonshire,” Ms Scott said. “I felt so embarrassed. It was so uncool.”

But in her 20s she fell in love with thrift shopping, and became a regular at The Barn herself.

“I would be going and getting things for myself,” she said. “I would get clothes, household items. I love to read books so I go every weekend.”

When she first started Once Upon A Thrift, she thought she would bring items in from overseas.

“With everything that is going on right now with the pandemic, I have not been able to do that,” she said. “So most items are found locally.”

She spends a lot of her free time cruising Bermuda looking for bargains to resell at a small profit.

Ms Scott thinks she has a knack for picking out things that other people would like.

Sometimes the things she puts on sale are snapped up within hours.

“This happened with a set of mule mugs I found, valued at $90 in the US,” she said. “These are small beer mugs made of copper. When I put those up, I had multiple responses. Some people were offering to buy them from me for more than the asking price.”

Other items hang around a little longer.

“One of the challenges of doing this is finding the space to store everything,” she said. “I just sold some African figurines that were with me for four months.”

Right now she has a seahorse painting she thinks would be ideal for a young child’s room.

From the business she learns unusual facts, such as that most women have a shoe size of 8.5 to 9.5. Shoes in a smaller size tend to hang around longer before being sold.

She is not the only person in Bermuda who likes to bargain hunt. Sometimes things can get competitive.

“Sometimes when I am out shopping I see someone else buy an interesting item and think, gosh, I just missed it,” she said. “It is just timing.”

Because thrifting is her hobby, running Once Upon A Thrift does not feel like work to her.

“I will say that I spend a lot of time commuting,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to go out and find items. It takes an eye for detail. I have to make sure that items are not broken.”

Ms Scott likes to stage photos of her items at the beach, but this comes with its dangers. One day she was shooting at John Smith’s Bay when a stiff breeze came up and knocked an item over. It cracked. She got someone to fix it for her but it was not really saleable after that point.

There are also some disadvantages to running an online store.

“Not everyone has the internet,” she said, “and I don’t have a bricks-and-mortar store.”

But running Once Upon A Thrift has been an adventure for Ms Scott.

She finds it more relaxing than selling real estate, although she has had to develop some new skills.

“It has been interesting to learn about pricing,” Ms Scott said. “With my real-estate business, I can give recommendations but my clients determine what price from a rental or sales standpoint. Trying to price fairly so that I can walk away and feel comfortable has been a challenge to learn. I also have to determine what quotas I would like to meet from a profit standpoint.”

For more information call 735-2386 or see onceuponathrift.wixsite.com/website

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Published October 13, 2021 at 8:55 am (Updated October 13, 2021 at 7:45 pm)

Ambika turns talent for bargain hunting into a business

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