Community Spotlight October 2013: Urban Consign and Design
Oct 08, 2013 09:37PM
by Karen Adams
If anyone understands the importance of home, it’s Paul Fitzgerald, who made a life-changing decision to be a stay-at-home dad when his first child was born three years ago. A year later, he and his wife, Cynthia, opened their furniture and home décor consignment business, Urban Consign and Design, in Hoboken. Now they help people set up their own homes.
After 16 years working on Wall Street at a demanding job with increasingly longer hours, Fitzgerald gave it up to be home with his infant son, Parker, now 3 (the couple now has an 18-month-old girl, Riley, as well). “I was on the phone 24/7, and when the market tanked, I was working even harder,” he says. “I thought, ‘What am I doing?’” So he and Cynthia decided he would stay home while she worked.
Fitzgerald wanted to start his own business and got the idea for furniture consignments. He knew from his Wall Street experience that there were many people constantly moving in and out of the area, especially those transferred by employers. “But when they move, I thought, ‘Where does all this nice furniture go?’” Many people don’t like the risk of selling directly to strangers, Fitzgerald says, and he saw a lot of things end up in dumpsters. Besides seeing beautiful, perfectly good furniture going to waste, Fitzgerald didn’t like the idea of adding to area landfills needlessly, so Urban Consign and Design was born.
“People say to me, ‘I’ve spent too much money to give this away,’” Fitzgerald says. “Some furniture still has the tags on it.” Plus, there are always others moving in who need nice furniture in their own new homes, so the circle continues. Besides new residents that buy and former residents that sell, many of Fitzgerald’s customers are designers that often buy pieces and remake them with new paint or upholstery. Business has been so good that the store recently relocated to a larger space with a loading dock and 18-foot ceilings.
Fitzgerald likes knowing the stories behind his consignments and researches every piece that comes in the store. “I need to know where everything comes from, so I can tell people,” he says. “I like telling stories. I’m Irish.”
His inventory has included a desk that was used on the Will and Grace TV show, a Thai painting that was part of an international fundraiser for the victims of the Indonesia tsunami and a pair of unique, portable, late-1800s “campaign” lounge chairs, made in Ireland and used by European generals that wanted a touch of comfort in the field. “It’s rare to have even one of these lounges, but I had two,” Fitzgerald says. They were museum-quality, from the estate of a collector whose family didn’t want them. “These were metal, with cushions, and they folded up and could be carried by horses, then unfolded wherever the generals stopped. They wanted all the luxury of home.”
One of his favorite stories is not about where a piece came from, but where it ended up. A young woman fell in love with a vintage 1950s turquoise couch, bought it and had it delivered. “When I delivered it to her apartment, she had a bunch of dogs there—she was a professional dog-walker—and she had rabbits, turtles and other animals, all rescue animals. But her home was spotless. When I walked in, I saw that her whole apartment had hints of turquoise all over. The couch was the one piece missing. It pulled the entire apartment together. She was so happy. It was really sweet.”
Another rewarding aspect of the business is donating to charities. Both of the Fitzgeralds believe in helping domestic abuse victims in women’s shelters. They once asked a shelter director what they could do to help. “I said, ‘We don’t have much money, but we have furniture.’” The woman told them that furniture is actually quite important, because one of the biggest reasons women don’t leave shelters is due to a lack of it—and those with kids are especially sad that they don’t have beds for their children to sleep in. The Fitzgeralds donate unsold furniture that consignees don’t want back to help local women and their children start over. “Right now, I have an entire truckload with furniture for a woman and her family,” Paul Fitzgerald says. “So now, even the stuff I can’t sell still has a purpose.”
The business has been exciting, he says, because it is always changing, and it helps people and the environment in several ways. “Each piece I have finds a new home,” he adds. “I really love that.”
Urban Consign and Design is located at 650 Newark St., in Hoboken. For more information, call 201-921-6800 or 201-710-5075 or visit UrbanConsign.com.