Plain Jane’s consignment shop in Sonoma Valley offers great finds

In a high-tech world where just about anything is a mouse-click away, Plain Jane’s consignment shop is a throwback to simpler times.

Shoppers browse casually, taking their time to uncover treasures they never knew they really needed – vintage stemware emblazoned with old-time automobiles, a wooden rolling pin with red handles just like great-grandma used for making pie dough.

Nothing is predictable at Plain Jane’s, where shoppers expect the unexpected.

The Sonoma Valley shop offers something of a scavenger hunt, with useful, unique or interesting items rewarding those with patience and a keen eye.

When Janie Raymond opened her namesake business 20 years ago in a former auto repair shop along busy Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs, she simply wanted to replicate a garage sale, but without dirty, broken or genuinely junky stuff.

Her concept was so successful she’s doubled her space to 2,000 square feet (with two remodels) and had to limit her merchandise to just home and garden décor.

“I could open three more stores and fill them up,” said Raymond, 57. “I had no idea, until we did this, how much stuff we have.”

She sells everything from sofas, chairs and dining sets to artwork, accessories, tableware and fun little trinkets, knickknacks and tchotchkes. Smaller items account for a big amount of her business.

Consigners have been unloading their stuff – and shoppers loading up – since opening day in 1996. Visitors sometimes stop by looking for something specific but instead walk out with an impulse buy, something too unique to pass up.

“It’s about the experience of buying it,” Raymond said. “It’s therapeutic; it’s hunting. Mostly they’re looking for something, whether they know it or not.”

Raymond shares a 50-50 split with consigners and tries to keep prices at least half off the original value. Nothing’s typically less than $3, and it’s rare to find anything more than $500.

She uses her experience and instincts to price items, turning to eBay, Craigslist and other Internet sites for comparisons. Truly unique items can pose a pricing challenge, like a set of jewel-encrusted candlesticks with monkeys and palm trees.

Signed by the artist and embedded with Swarovski crystals, Raymond discovered they retail for $1,200 each. They sold at Plain Jane’s for $75 each, “a great deal,” she said.

Much of her merchandise comes from adult children clearing out their parents’ estates.

“A big part of our business is when people’s parents die. They’ve already got their own households.”

Several years ago, she noticed people simplifying their lives and reducing their clutter, around the same time Japanese author Marie Kondo released her book about the power of living in clean, organized spaces without the distraction of too much stuff.

Additionally, empty-nesters tend to downsize or at least clear through a room or two when their children head out on their own.

For shoppers searching for treasures, it’s a win-win situation. And for consigners, it’s an opportunity to pass along something no longer needed or regarded and make some cash – and possibly make someone’s day.

“The thing people get excited about is very different and unique,” Raymond said. “You don’t know what you’re going to find. That’s the excitement of junking.”

When a collection of 25 old masks handcrafted in Mexico came through the shop, “People were going crazy,” Raymond said. “It was a feeding frenzy.”

A large consignment of Waterford crystal also sold out quickly, and anything mid-century modern – the colors and shapes of 1950s and ’60s designs – is especially popular.

Anything that tugs at heartstrings and stirs childhood memories goes quickly, too.

“And Sonoma loves their cats and loves their dogs,” Raymond said, with pet-themed items big sellers.

A collection of about 40 hat-pin holders brought in by a woman in her 70s “was one of the most talked-about consignments,” she said. “Talk about a bygone era.”

She once sold off a collection of 100 lighthouse-themed items that a man’s new girlfriend wanted out of the house after she moved in.

“That was hilarious. I made them feed in slowly,” Raymond said.

A seasoned secondhand shopper with plenty of “junking” experience to her credit, Raymond remains surprised by what comes into her shop. She often can predict what will sell – but admits it’s often guesswork.

“Sometimes we can’t believe what people are fighting over,” she said.

“People like stuff that represents days that are gone by: milking stools, old kitchen scales. It reminds us of quieter, slower times. Those items are super popular.”

But, “On the other hand, if we get a Pottery Barn couch, it goes in a day.”

She’s witnessed several trends during the past 20 years. Victorian-style furniture was hot when she opened her shop but now “we can hardly give it away.”

Asian-inspired furnishings and home décor items remain popular, as do area rugs (especially Persian ones) and casual and country-style furniture. Christmas and Halloween decorations are always popular as well.

Shoppers have gotten younger, with the green movement making secondhand shopping “very politically correct,” Raymond said. About 30 percent of her shoppers are men who enjoy browsing for that unexpected find.

“It’s across the board. We have women who are 90 still buying fun stuff for their houses.”

Raymond only accepts items she believes will sing out to someone and sell. Her success rate is about 90 percent; she knows her stuff.

Plain Jane’s located at 18495 Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs. For more information, call 939-7875 or visit

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