Southside Consignment, the Flathead’s first consignment store, has offered incredible deals on high-end, preowned furniture for 28 years.
By Allison Batch. Photo by Amanda Wilson.
Donna Kouns, proprietor of Southside Consignment and Antiques, invites me to sit on a cozy leather couch just inside the entrance of her store. It’s a sunny, warm afternoon in late-March, and everyone is in good spirits after the long winter. Customers say hello as they come and go, offering comments such as, “We love your store!” and “We’ll be back soon!” One stops to show off the old wooden pack frame he purchased, which he plans to use as a mount for a bighorn sheep head. He’s been in the market for this type of frame for a while, and Southside happened to get this one in yesterday.
These lovely local interactions – far too rare for most of us – are just part of a regular afternoon for Donna. It’s why her customers are her favorite part of owning a business here. “They’re almost like family to me. You get to know them and know about them. To me, it’s not like work.” And then she laughs and adds, “Well, some days it is.”
Going on 29 years, the laborious days are now few and far between. Donna has cultivated a beautiful store that people love coming back to, and she has a dedicated long-term staff of six that she can trust to keep things running. “The wiser we get, it gets easier and easier. And I have a great crew.”
Southside Consignment and Antiques opened on December 6, 1990. Donna and her husband Wes owned a large warehouse south of Kalispell. Wes was friends with Scotty Levengood, and it was Scotty’s suggestion that they open a secondhand store. “Nobody in town had one at that time.” With the help of Scotty’s wife Karla, the Kounses opened the Flathead’s first consignment shop. When Karla had to step back to grow Scotty’s Bar, Donna continued with the new business venture and saw the store through multiple expansions and transformations.
Today, Donna describes Southside as a “paradise of gently used furniture and décor,” but it’s come a long way. “When we first started, it was just a little bit of everything. A lot of garage sale stuff.” As the years went on and the store became more popular, they were able to be more selective with consignments, gradually evolving to the high-end stock that they carry today.
Demand for products has also shifted. In the ‘90s, antiques and collectables were immensely popular and made up a large part of the store. As trends changed, the store needed to diversify to evolve with the times. Southside was able to survive the recession by expanding the aesthetic of the pieces they were carrying – a tactic that has remained popular to this day.
Donna attributes this resilience to her team of employees. The six women who help her run the store – Valerie, Judy, Lori, Linda, Cora, and Corrie – all have input on what items to accept and how to display them. “Each one has a special knowledge of what is selling, prices, how to display, business management, and much more,” Donna explains.
“I’m learning to be more open. With the seven of us, every one of the girls has a different idea on [an item]. I’ll be thinking, ‘Don’t take that!’ But they can see that it’ll sell, and then it goes out the door the next day.” This has turned out to be Donna’s secret to success – with a wide variety of products and styles, Southside truly carries something for everyone.
As a consignment and antique store, the inventory at Southside is constantly changing. Along with the items people bring in to consign, the store has four booths for local vendors. They’ve expanded into a second location – Southside II – across the parking lot from the main building, allowing them to carry even more furniture and housewares, including beds.
The team at Southside focuses on carrying fine, yet affordable, preowned furniture and home décor. Southside works with consignors to offer a fair price for their item, and works hard to sell it for them. All of the merchandise is displayed in beautiful vignettes – living or dining room scenes that help customers picture the item in their own home.
This makes for a pleasant shopping experience. The store is full but not overcrowded, and feels comfortable and homey. Donna describes it as “a place to come and relax, enjoy, and get inspired.” With 9,000 square feet of merchandise, there’s something new around every corner, but it feels more like a treasure hunt through the rooms in someone’s home than a warehouse.
“We have a lot of people who say this is retail therapy for them. Some people will come and stay for two hours, just looking and taking their time. They find that shopping at the big box stores, there’s too much going on. They’re able to come in here and it’s more relaxed and therapeutic.”
After all these years, Donna still finds herself falling more in love with her business. “I always liked to go to garage sales or buy secondhand, but I never really thought I’d be in the business. The more I learn about it, the more I enjoy it. I like the repurposed things, and the patina of used furniture, more than the brand-new stuff.”
If you want to find unique, high-end furniture for a fraction of the price, take a trip to Southside Consignment and Antiques. Find them at 2699 U.S. Highway 93 South, open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Saturday 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Visit their Facebook page or call (406) 756-8526 for more information.
Cleaning house? Donna Kouns explains the benefits of consigning.
- Easy – No yard sales, no expensive ads.
- Hassel-free – We price, advertise, and display your merchandise in our beautiful showroom.
- Safe – No strangers wandering around your property or house.
- Convenient – Never wait at home for “maybe” buyers or no-shows.
- Cost-effective – You’ll receive more for your items than you could get from a garage sale. The consignor receives 60% of the selling price at Southside.
- Win-win-win – You let go of an item, keep it out of the landfill, and support a local business.
About the Author: Allison Batch is the Sustainability Programs Coordinator for Citizens for a Better Flathead. She lives in Kalispell.