Sheila Stevens had been a prominent figure in downtown Hollister for over three decades.
First bringing She’s women’s clothing store to San Benito Street in the late 1980s, she continued to grace San Benito Street with other local hotspots, including He’s men’s clothing store, The Knife and Fork Cafe and Heavenly Bakery. Those businesses had already been closed and/or sold before November 2020. But She’s Consignment Store, originally located on the corner of 5th and East streets in Hollister since 2015, remained.
“There were no consignment shops in town,” Stevens said. “I always thought that a consignment shop would be an interesting thing to have, so that’s how I got into the consignment business—not expecting someone to burn it down!”
But the unexpected occurred early last Nov. 2, when a suspected arsonist triggered a string of fires in downtown Hollister. Non-essential businesses were already suffering due to COVID-19’s shelter in place guidelines when the fire happened. The blaze took out three Hollister downtown businesses, including She’s.
“I was shocked when I saw it,” Stevens said. “Just shocked. I couldn’t believe that someone could do that.”
Though Stevens had insurance coverage to re-open the store at 731 San Benito Street in March, she has also had to deal with her insurance company to assist former consignors who had lost items in the fire.
“I didn’t burn it down, I didn’t do anything to it,” Stevens said. “One lady had a set of dishes who wanted me to pay for them. And I had to tell her, ‘You don’t understand, I’m not the insurance company. You brought your stuff in, you consigned it in, it’s your baby. I will try to get you insurance money, so listen to what I say.’”
Stevens said a representative from her insurance company came to Hollister to speak to Stevens’s consignors who lost items. The rep explained that they needed to file a claim through their own home insurance companies, and if they were unsuccessful, they could send claims to Stevens’s insurance company.
“For some strange reason, some folks didn’t want to send their papers,” Stevens said. “I sent mine in. I didn’t get a lot of money, only enough to get this open. I still don’t know if anybody went through my insurance company, but that’s all I could do.”
Stevens thinks it’s possible that some of her former consignors are finding that their home insurance companies require a higher deductible than the value of their claims.
“There is nothing in here that is worth thousands of dollars,” she said, noting the dining tables, chairs, pictures, and jewelry in the shop. “I myself had a beautiful painting [in the store] that I had bought, and it serves me right. I didn’t get money for that, either. It’s just one of those things. I’ve done the best I can to show people what to do, and if they don’t do it, then that’s their problem. They think I should pay everybody’s deal, but I’ve done the best I can for them.”
Though Stevens said she’s even been threatened to be sued by a former consignor, she said she is no longer worried about the situation.
“All of the stuff in here, I didn’t ask one person in here to bring the stuff in,” she noted. “They wanted to bring it in because they know we can sell it. And that’s the whole game: to sell it and to get it out of here.”
Having lost her records in the fire, and not knowing which consignor lost what, Stevens said she has now made changes in running her business, in case something similar happens in the future.
“We have lots more paperwork,” she said. “Now, if you bring something in, you can get a copy of that and take it home so that you have it. So that’s a different deal. I think that’s wise and I never thought of doing that.”
Stevens is happy to be back on San Benito Street—right across from where she opened the first She’s. After the fire and COVID-19, she has high hopes for the businesses in downtown Hollister, as well as her own.
“Even though I felt very sad for the one that I left, because that was a beautiful shop, I was thrilled to get this spot. It’s long and lengthy and it’s a beautiful building,” she said. “It’s going to take some time for people to feel comfortable going out. I do believe we can get over this.”
As for why Stevens—now in her early 80s—decided to reopen her consignment store?
“I’ve worked all my life,” she laughed. “You’d have to murder me to get me to quit working. It’s not like a hardship for me. I just consider it fun and I love people. What would I do all my life? Sit there and look at the dog and cat?”
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