Anne Ward's Ellicott City home is filled with items she's found at area garage sales. Now, the self-described bargain hunter has turned her penny-pinching skills into a business.
Last month, she opened Recycle Sports in Ellicott City, where new and used sporting goods are often sold at half the original retail price or less.
A $70 lacrosse stick, for example, sells for $35. A pair of $55 hockey gloves goes for $20.
"I've always been interested in starting my own business," said Ms. Ward, who formerly developed business courses at Howard Community College. "Plus, the idea of recycling appealed to me."
The store, at Frederick Road and St. Johns Lane, offers everything from cross-country skis to golf balls to karate uniforms. Ms. Ward also repairs and sells old bicycles, and sells items on consignment.
Ms. Ward buys her merchandise at auctions, garage sales, liquidators' sales and from individual county residents. About half of her items are new, she said.
She sprays disinfectant and a vinyl protector on used shoes and stitches loose seams herself. She said she doesn't buy equipment that can't be repaired and doesn't sell used T-shirts or other personal clothing.
"I look for good condition and good quality," Ms. Ward said of the used items. "I didn't want it to be a junk shop."
Ms. Ward knows how expensive it can be to outfit children for sports teams, something she has learned through experience with her sons, ages 12 and 16.
"It can cost up to $500 to outfit a kid for hockey," she said.
The store has attracted budget-minded consumers and those who don't want to risk investing in a sport they're not sure they want to pursue.
"Some people are out of work but still want their kids to play sports," Ms. Ward said.
Football, soccer, and hockey equipment are among the most popular items in the store, Ms. Ward said. She also is getting requests for treadmills and stair-climbing equipment.
"I'm pretty stocked to the gills," she said.
Ms. Ward once worried that she would have trouble selling secondhand goods.
"I just wasn't sure," she said. "I thought there would be [price] snobbishness -- but not at all."
Among the store's customers are senior citizens who can no longer use their sporting equipment and want to sell it on consignment, and parents and children looking for discount sporting goods.
"It's a real mix -- people from Columbia, other parts of Howard County and Catonsville," she said.
Candi Anderson of Ellicott City, a recent shopper who was looking for a pair of size 3 soccer shoes and a batting helmet for her sons, said the store is a good idea.
"Some of the stuff you use only part of the time," Ms. Anderson said. "I'd rather not pay full price."
No matter how popular the store becomes, Ms. Ward said, she wants it to remain manageable in size.
"I don't ever want to franchise and get big and fancy," she said. "A lot of the fun for me is in meeting these people."
Store hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday.
For information, call 313-9122.