A woman with a mission

Lindsey Jackson · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Carolyn Lamp loves her store. She knew she always wanted to own her own business someday, but couldn't quite put her thumb on what kind of business she wanted.

In 2003, she and a partner purchased the building located at 408 N. Columbus St. in West Liberty with intentions of opening a used car lot. The used car business didn't go well, only lasting until 2005, according to Lamp. The building sat empty until someone asked her - "Why can't you just sell stuff?"

"A friend said to me one day - 'You need to look at that building as an asset and not as a liability,'" Lamp said. "And that changed my thinking around to wonder why can't I just sell something out that little building every day of the week."

With her new look on the building, Lamp was able to collect enough stuff from her son and friends to open what she has now successfully run for almost seven years - The Resale Store of West Liberty.

"I started with not very much stuff," she said. "But it has grown. I have been here six-and-a-half years and have become part of the community, it has taken me in as well."

Lamp said the beginning wasn't easy, but thanks to her ex-husband's support, she was able to hold on.

"The first couple years, at least a dozen times, I was out in the front yard pounding a for-sale sign into the grass, ready to quit. I had a few special people who kept encouraging me to hang in there."

Lamp believes it takes a good three years for a new business owner to anchor and establish him or herself. "You are always going to have good days and bad days, but I truly believe every day here is a good day now."

She said many people in this town told her the Resale Store was not going to last, that other people have tried and failed at running a second-hand store. But her desire to be her own boss was her biggest motivator. "I wanted to be the captain of my own ship," Lamp said. "And I have been successful."

Lamp grew up in Davenport. Her tie to West Liberty is her uncle, Silas "Si" Schirner, who taught for the West Liberty School District in the 1950s. She has a picture of him hanging up on the wall behind her desk which seems to grab the attention of many West Liberty shoppers.

"People tell me stories about him all the time," she said. "There are many people in this community who know him."

When Lamp was growing up she was always told to get a job. "There was no encouragement about college, and good jobs were pretty easy to get," Lamp said. "I worked, and worked, and worked. I tended bar, I waited tables. I was a warehouse worker and a forklift driver. I worked at a wholesale food distributor for 10 years. I mean, I just worked."

After quitting the warehouse job, Lamp started thinking about what it would be like to have a business of her own. "It turned out to be a second hand store in West Liberty, and sometimes I think no one is more surprised than I."

Lamp said she has always enjoyed shopping, selling and being around people. She also has retail experience. She finds most of the items she sells at estate sales in Davenport or surrounding cities, though many people donate. She says her store has kept people from having to drive all the way to Iowa City to find things like end tables, book shelves or chairs, to name a few.

"The second hand business is growing because the economy has put people in a mindset of having to be mindful of what they are spending. This is a small town and I am really the only shop around. It is nice for this community, because if you need something really quick, you can say - 'I will go to the Resale Store to see if she has it.' I am saving steps for people in a small town. I think it is a very good business to be in. I love my little store. I do, I just love it."
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