Devil's Tale

PRADA AND PUPPIES

Ann Siner saves her customers money and homeless animals their lives

By Kris Bolster

“I knew corporate America wasn’t for me,” Ann said. I like PetsMart. It’s a good company, but I knew I had to run my own business.”

 

The black puppy jumped from under the clothes rack in Ann Siner’s office area. Another black puppy with a white jaw and paws popped out from behind a small cage and wrestled with his sibling. Ann Siner, wearing a black dress and heels, crouched down to clean up an accident one of the puppies had left behind. “I take care of them until they are spayed and neutered, and then they go back to the shelter to be adopted,” she said.

Driven yet compassionate, businesswoman Ann Siner supports homeless animals while giving her customers more jingle in their pockets. Her company, My Sister’s Closet, donates unsold consignment items to the Animal Welfare League and the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. The petite blonde also serves on the boards of the shelters and fosters animals that are between homes. “I have a soft spot in my heart for animals,” Ann said. Besides her foster pets, her family consists of “six four-legged children.” Translation: Four dogs and two cats.

“When you spend most of your time there [at work], you better like it,” Ann said. If results prove anything, this 45-year-old woman loves her job. In 1991 she created My Sister’s Closet, a women’s resale clothes store. She now owns 10 consignment stores in the Phoenix area.

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, Ann moved to Phoenix 20 years ago to attend the American Graduate for Business Management program at Thunderbird. After she became director of marketing at PetsMart’s corporate headquarters in Phoenix, she wanted out. “I knew corporate America wasn’t for me,” Ann said. “I like PetsMart. It’s a good company, but I knew I had to run my own business.”


Photo by Aldei Gregoire Anne Siner started My Sister’s Closet in 1991 after working for PetsMart.

In the beginning
Ann decided to open a consignment store in Phoenix after shopping at a resale store in Austin. She discussed the idea with her younger sister, Jennifer. Instead of being another dark and dirty resale store, it would be like a boutique.

“She knew she could do it on a bigger scale,” Jennifer Siner said. Ann’s sister owns a small percentage of the business and works as operations manager for all the stores.

“I was voted Best Dressed in my senior year of high school,” Jennifer said. “I love clothes.” Her black-and-white shoes matched her white shirt and black pants. She brushed her hands through her layered, light brown hair. “For the first three years of business, I took something home every day. A handbag, earrings, shoes.”

The sisters balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When they started the first consignment store, Jennifer designed the merchandising displays while Ann covered the business end. “I have a pretty good sense of problem solving and seeing what needs to be done,” Ann said. “My sister is very creative and artsy, and I’m not. She’s easygoing. I’m not.”

“To be a CEO of your own company, you need that type of personality,” Jennifer said of her sister. “She has to make the big decisions.”

Ann and Jennifer opened a second location of My Sister’s Closet during their second year of business because of the enormous volume of clothes and business they received. The sisters also launched My Sister’s Attic (home furnishing at three locations), Well Suited (men’s apparel at three locations) and Small Change (children’s clothing at one location).

What you can do

Find lost pets, post found pets, and find animal shelters at Pets 911.com.

Adopt a pet or learn how to become a foster parent for pets at the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

Get info, donate money, or locate a shelter through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Learn more about pets at the Maricopa County Animals Care & Control.

Caring for customers
On a drizzly Saturday afternoon, more than 50 shoppers browsed the racks at My Sister’s Closet in Scottsdale. Signs in the Favorites section pointed to suede and leather, favorite bottoms and a rack of little black dresses. In the Designer section, six women huddled around the St. John rack.

Stephanie Aronovitch, an academic counselor at the University of Phoenix, had dropped off items to sell. She was looking for some new purchases. “I just brought in today a Gucci purse I’ve had since I was 16,” said Aronovitch, 32. ”I didn’t want to just dump it. This is the first time I knew of a place to bring it to sell.”

Megan Slominski, an administrative assistant at Monterey Homes, searched through the evening dresses. “I’m looking for a holiday party outfit,” she said.“"Everything is so reasonably priced and in good shape.”

Slominski regularly sells her four-year-old son’s clothes to Small Change. “I’ll bring his stuff and save that money for summer vacation,” she said. “It’s a good way to get rid of outgrown clothes and toys. I usually save around $2,000 doing this. One year we went to Hawaii, and last year we took our summer vacation to Coronado Island.”

In exchange for clothing or furniture, clients receive a 55 percent return in credit or a 45 percent return in cash when the product is sold. Aronovitch’s brown hair bobbed as she nodded her head, “I feel good knowing that they donate the purse [to animal shelters] if it isn’t bought.”


Photo by Aldei GregoireAnn Siner prices shoes at one of her seven stores.

Caring for homeless animals
Betty Welton, president of the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL), respects Ann’s success. “She built her business from scratch. She also gives time to what she cares about,” Welton said.

Ann served on AAWL’s board for six years. “She easily gives over $10,000 a year [in donations and money] to us,” Welton said. She also conceived the shelter’s biggest annual fundraiser, An Evening to Paws. Last year’s event raised more than $320,000.

Ann now serves on the Friends of Animal Care and Control board. “Ann is the type of volunteer you want,” said Julie Bank, director of the Public Program and Development for the Maricopa County Animal Care & Control. “She walks the walk and talks the talk. She’s also a fantastic fundraiser.”

The thrift stores at both shelters receive unsold consigned items from My Sister’s Closet. “She single-handedly makes our thrift stores run,” Bank said.

Ann makes a profit for herself while providing for others. Her business has grown every year, with the last five to six years vaulting into double-digit growth. Although the recession shrank the profits of other businesses, My Sister’s Closet’s returns spurted upward. “People who didn’t shop here before now do,” Ann said.

Ann admitted that it was scary to give up a secure job at PetsMart and go out on her own. But she listened to her intuition and did what she wanted. She loves owning her own business. “I don’t have to answer to anybody.” And she gets to bring puppies to work.

 


 

IF YOU GO
My Sister’s Closet (for women)

23435 N. Pima Rd.
480.419.6242

6204 N. Scottsdale Rd.

480.443.4575

2033 E. Camelback Rd.

602.954.6080

Well-Suited (for men)

2035 E. Camelback

602.840.5605

23359 N. Pima Rd.

480.473.0228

6208 N. Scottsdale Rd.

480.556.9750

Small Change (for kids)

6206 N. Scottsdale Rd.

480.368.9466

 

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