NEWBERRY — Having already quit their day jobs, Greg and Aimee Talbot, 45, chose to disregard the cautionary advice given them from an established antiques dealer and go into online antique furniture sales.
“We put together all of our research and we decided we were going to start EuroLux imports,” Aimee said.
The Talbots got into the industry always knowing they would focus mainly on online sales, however, they assumed they would be headquarted in Columbia.
As it so happened though Greg had been renting out his house in Columbia while he and Aimee worked in Germany and when they got back to the states it was still being rented.
So the two moved in temporarily with Greg’s parents who lived in Prosperity.
“And that’s how we ended up in Newberry,” Aimee said.
In 2004 Greg and Aimee opened a shop on Hwy 76 between Newberry and Prosperity, bought a 28-foot trailer and began attending furniture shows up and down the east coast.
“It was hard work but we learned a lot,” Greg said.
The Talbots spoke with dealers, watched Antiques Roadshow and read anything they could get their hands on giving themselves a crash-course in the business.
As beneficial as being on the road was for Greg and Aimee, it kept them away from home and was preventing them from establishing themselves online.
“We knew we always wanted to be online. One, because it’s a huge geographic market and, two, we felt the industry was wide open because really there weren’t a lot of people selling antiques online because it’s really hard and it takes a whole lot of work,” Aimee said.
There are naturally no manufacturer photos for antique furniture so they would have to photograph each piece themselves on top of writing descriptions, weighing, measuring, calculating shipping, etc.
“It was a hard decision to make but basically we chose to stop doing the shows and close our one sales channel,” Aimee said.
It took six months to completely restructure their business during which sales heavily declined, which was expected.
However, when they got up and running their sales doubled over what they had been on the road.
In 2006 they moved into their current location on Main Street in downtown Newberry and were awarded the title of South Carolina Rural Business of the Year not long after.
At one point EuroLux was the number one dealer of antique furniture on Ebay although they are not sure if that’s still the case.
For the Talbots everything was going swimmingly — until the Great Recession hit in 2008.
“For the first year we didn’t really feel it so much because our market is people with more disposable income and they weren’t quite as impacted by the recession at first,” Aimee said.
While the affluence of their customer base was unaltered Aimee speculates that guilt and market uncertainty may have affected their spending habits.
Their growth cycle flattened out and they needed to do something to create additional sales opportunities.
That desire led them to delve into a market previously untapped by EuroLux — new furniture and home goods.
“It’s like fishing,” Greg said. “The more worms you put out there the more fish you’re going to catch.”
At a furniture show in Highpoint, N.C., the Talbots linked up with lamp manufacturer Dale Tiffany and enlisted in their drop-ship program.
“We market the stuff online. We sell it. When someone buys it we place an order for it and they ship it out. We never touch it,” Greg said.
The model worked and they began to seek partnerships with other dealers but the goings were slow at the start.
“At first the manufacturers were all, ‘No way, not going to deal with you. You’re not going to sell our stuff online,’” Greg said, recalling they just flatly rejected the notion that customers would purchase furniture on the internet.
However, a couple of small, not well represented manufacturers took a chance and forged a partnership with EuroLux and it went quite well.
This caught the attention of the big guys who began to soften their stance and “no’s” began thawing into “maybes.”
“We kind of got to where we ‘asked’ less and just kind of started doing it,” Greg said.
Aimee added that the dealers weren’t too miffed either because they had orders coming in.
Begun with the intent of dealing only in antiques, new furniture now dominates their business staking a claim upwards of 70 percent.
Although new, the designs of the furniture are still “antique-inspired,” Aimee said.
Eurolux has sold to all 50 states and 48 foreign countries to date.
“All from little Newberry,” Aimee said.
But all this success didn’t happen overnight and the Talbots said they made a lot of sacrifices along the way.
Greg’s advice to anyone looking to make a similar leap was that “you have to be crazy.”
And he said on top of insanity you have to be willing to work harder than you ever thought you would.
“The whole first year that we started this business we worked seven days a week, probably about 12 to 14 hours a day,” Aimee said. “And you have to be willing to be really poor. I mean we put all our money in this business — we didn’t have to nickels to rub together.”
However, Greg said if it’s something your passionate about, especially a hobby, you’ll never feel like you’re working.
Reach Carson Lambert at 803-276-0625, ext. 1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.