Sally Wong-Faust was in corporate America for more than 28 years. She managed major commercial properties, like apartment complexes, in Oklahoma City. She has degrees in Information Management Systems and Computer Science. She worked for Price-Edwards and as a realtor. She has held positions like executive marketing manager.
How many of you associate this corporate wunderkind to the sweet gal from Malaysia who can usually be found working the counter at the Rusted Rabbit on J.M. Davis?
Sally was a single mom of three kids when she met her husband, Wade, at a Tulsa running group. Wade was a mechanic for American Airlines, but had previously owned Remember When, an antique store out on Highway 20, near Sinor’s.
In February 2011, Sally bought a house and moved to Claremore. Two weeks later, she lost her job. She had a job interview lined up for that very afternoon, but decided it was time to wait. Cool it. Take a break. Explore the options.
The next day, Wade showed up at her door and whisked her off to the courthouse, where they tied the knot.
Shortly after, that May, she happened to drive past a vacant storefront on Patti Page. She told Wade she wanted to rent it, but had no idea what she was going to do with it. She was exploring her options, remember?
In the time that Sally and Wade had been a couple, his passion for antiques had begun to rub off on her. They went to an auction and bought some furniture, which they ended up selling from the parking lot of her newly rented Patti Page location on weekends.
On May 1, 2011, Sally opened the first Rusted Rabbit Resale location. After paying the rent and necessary city fees, she had approximately $300 in her business account. She was determined to make it work. That first month, she made $645. After being open for about a month, Sally took her three children on a long-planned sojourn to Malaysia. For 30 days. Wade thought she was losing her mind, since she had just opened her business, but she hadn’t been home in five years. She was going.
And when Sally returned that July, she was rejuvenated, on fire, and ready to jump in to the Rusted Rabbit dream wholeheartedly. She still hadn’t made much money, and she knew she had to advertise. On her $50 per month ad budget, that wouldn’t be easy, so she turned to Craigslist, and then facebook. She had a terrific response and plenty of repeat customers. Today, the Rusted Rabbit still makes about 25% of its sales on facebook.
In October 2011, after just six months of being open, a new space became available in Pryor. Being that Sally and Wade often traveled to Arkansas to visit family and “go picking” for the store, Pryor made good sense for them, geographically. Sally was excited about the new store, and was inspired to make it a success. It also had more space, which allowed for additional inventory. The Pryor store was a good move for Sally, and it did well.
Then in June 2012, things changed again. A retail space became available on J.M. Davis, next to Make It Special. This one was 5000 square feet. And with this location, Sally wanted something different. She had been involved in the business for just over a year, and in that time she had met a lot of solid customers, many of whom also had items to sell. For the J.M. Davis store, Sally decided to rent booth space to vendors.
Wade, ever the handy husband (he’s a mechanic AND he knows antiques) built every booth space in the store himself. All ten of them. And in 30 days, Rusted Rabbit’s third location was ready to roll. The booths filled up immediately, all vendors being former customers.
Ready for another change? In October 2012, a storefront was up for rent in historic downtown Claremore. Since the opening of her first location, Sally had made good friends with several of the downtown vendors, who all wondered why she wasn’t located on Main Street. She decided it was time to reevaluate her business strategy, and that’s exactly what she did.
First on the agenda was closing the Pryor store. It had done well for a long time, but since Rusted Rabbit was born in Claremore, Sally wanted to focus on keeping it here. Then she realized that she didn’t really need three stores in one small town, so she closed the “store” portion of the Patti Page location, after purchasing the house next door. That location now operates as a custom paint workshop, with the house next door functioning as a “rummage room” for inventory in need of makeovers. The majority of the furniture is refurbished at the Patti Page workshop, and then moved to the Main Street store to be sold, while the J.M. Davis location is strictly vendors.
The year of 2013 was designated as a travel year for Sally and Wade. Not owning a television, neither of them were aware of shows like “American Pickers” or “Storage Wars,” but that’s exactly what they spent time doing. They decided, in order to make their travels even more fruitful, to choose a show where they would sell their merchandise, and go picking along the way. In less than one year, Rusted Rabbit is one of the most sough-after vendors at the Vintage Market Days, which hosts shows all over the region, from Texas to Arkansas to Missouri.
Wade retired from American in December of 2012, and now works with Sally at the store. She has a staff of six part-time employees who round out the team. But that’s not enough to keep Sally busy; she and Wade recently purchased an auction house, Estate Auctions of Oklahoma. They have been running several estate auctions, and will hold public auctions once a month, once they secure a building for the new company.
Sally credits a lot of things to the success of Rusted Rabbit:
Relationships. Integrity, both in what they sell, as well as in what they buy. A “partnership” mentality with the booth vendors. And financially? Sally and Wade have zero debt. Everything that has gone into their business has been paid for with cash. THAT is amazing. A store that began with 300 bucks in the bank now boasts two full stores, a workshop, an auction house and a traveling booth business.
Just before wrapping up the interview with Sally, a rabbit statue under the cash register caught my eye, and I asked her where the name Rusted Rabbit came from. Sally laughed; I had a feeling it wasn’t the first time she’d been asked that. It turns out that years ago, before the store was even a dream, Wade picked up a box of junk at a flea market. In that box was a rusty old rabbit. He wasn’t sure if it was cast iron or stone, but the more he cleaned it, the rustier it got. His first thought was, if he ever had a rock band, he would call it Rusted Rabbit. But it turned out to be a fine name for an antique store, instead. The original Rusted Rabbit holds a place of honor in Sally and Wade’s home.
If you’re ever in need of anything for your home, or just want to look at some really fun items, stop in at the Rusted Rabbit. The desk in my moreClaremore office was purchased from the J.M. Davis store, and it’s divine. Sally was a joy to work with as a salesperson, too.
Be sure to follow Rusted Rabbit on facebook!
Keep it local, Claremore.