With nearly 90 franchises spanning across 23 states, "Rhea Lana" could be considered a household name, especially in central Arkansas. None
With nearly 90 franchises spanning across 23 states, “Rhea Lana” could be considered a household name, especially in central Arkansas. Named for its founder, Rhea Lana’s is a children’s clothing consignment event; each location in the franchise holds two a year.
Rhea Lana Riner is the subject of THV11’s newest digital-exclusive series, “Spotlights.” In this series, the THV11 team features an Arkansan, working to do good in their community, through various ways.
In a fluorescent-lit, nearly empty former Walmart in the heart of Maumelle, Rhea Lana Riner was dressed casually, perched at a folding table with a laptop in tow, preparing for her company’s first consignment event of the year in Arkansas. The former Neighborhood Market off Maumelle Blvd. is the stage for Rhea Lana’s of Greater Little Rock’s event.
The empty building will soon be filled with hundreds of thousands of items ranging from newborn to big kid clothes, to books, toys, and more. Riner said she expects about 1,500 consignors at this event, and about 5,000 shoppers.
But before the huge venue, the thousands of items, and the hundreds of consignors, there was a rather humble beginning.
“My husband left a corporate career and went to work for a nonprofit organization, so our income took quite a dramatic nose dive. And I had three small children under the age of four,” she recalled of 1997.
“At the time, I just really wasn’t satisfied with the second-hand shopping opportunities out there.” So, Riner said she took it into her own hands, holding a consignment sale in her family’s Conway, Ark. living room with 11 friends and three racks of clothes.
It was this sale that prompted Rhea Lana’s to officially begin. Being the same demographic of who the consignment sales were geared for, she shared with THV11 that identifying with other moms is how she learned to make her sales unique.
Riner explained, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal for things to be computerized now, but if you think back to 1997, when I had my first sale, we didn’t all carry around phones and computers in our hands. We decided to computerize it. That’s really been our niche. We wanted moms to have this wonderful shopping experience with second-hand things.”
How It Works
Being a mom herself, Riner knew she had to make the process convenient. “Moms have a lot of challenges in life. We juggle a lot, we carry a lot of responsibility.”
She said, “It’s a consignment sale. And so families enter the items they want to sell online. They select their own prices and then they make 70 percent.”
Between entering the items on the Rhea Lana’s app or website and making a profit, consignors tag and drop off the gear they’re selling a number of days before the event begins. The sale lasts through the week, and consignors who made profit can pick up their checks the day after the sale. According to the company’s website, consignors make $400 on average.
Riner explained that the events are manned by several volunteers, who were the target of Department of Labor claims that Rhea Lana’s was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
She said, “It began in 2011; we have a lawsuit that’s filed. They’ve said there’s something wrong with our model. And we disagree. And to protect, really, the consignment industry, we’ve had to file a lawsuit, and really they want our volunteers to be classified as employees.”
The court ruled in favor of Rhea Lana’s in 2016, and Riner said the case is currently in the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
With 21 years under her belt, she said one of the greatest joys of her career is not only watching generation after generation shop and consign, but helping young mothers be smart with their money.
“I love seeing families eyes light up when they can buy things for their kids that they couldn’t normally.”
Giving back is a mission of Riner’s and her company, she explained. “You can tell that we all care about our communities and we want to improve the quality of life in our communities.”
Each sale, consignors are asked if they would like to donate their unsold items. If they agree, the items are reorganized on the event’s final day and foster families are able to shop for free.
She said, “We just want to do our little part to support them and provide them encouragement.”
The empty building we sat in while Riner told the THV11 team her story will soon be filled with thousands of items, but Riner explained that more importantly, she feels like the community inside the events and the company’s social media pages is what keeps it alive.
“Moms love connection. We have always wanted to be just a trusted place where moms find value.” She explained further, “There are friendships that you make here that you would not make any other place.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Rhea Lana’s upcoming events, including the Greater Little Rock sale starting this weekend, visit www.rhealana.com.