By Samantha Brandbergh
Strollers and children’s bicycles line the exterior of Max and Mia’s, Hillsborough’s first consignment shop, and a chalkboard written with blue and pink chalk serves as the storefront sign.
Inside the shop, racks, shelves and bins are filled with clothing and toys — children’s shirts for $10; a new pair of Ugg boots for $75; a kitchen playset for $40. Towards the back, shelving displays Funko Pop! Figurines, which cover the walls of a small cut-out room.
“She can play with whatever she wants,” store owner and Hillsborough resident Brett Cooper said to a customer with a 3-year-old girl.
Max and Mia’s, named after Cooper’s son and co-owner Adam Chernoff’s daughter, opened at 415 Amwell Road on Oct. 8 soon after Cooper began searching for businesses for sale in New Jersey over the summer.
“My concept was a fun store; I’m a kid at heart,” Cooper said, wearing a Mr. Incredible T-shirt. “I wanted all the toys out so kids can play with them.”
After researching the consignment industry and finding a consignment shop for sale in Flemington, the deal fell through. Cooper and Chernoff then decided to start up their own.
“What I would do, and what a lot of other people that I know would do, is when they have stuff that they’re done with, they put it out and they call Lupus [Foundation of America] or Goodwill and they pick it up at their driveway,” said Cooper, who grew up in a family of small business owners. “I created a Facebook page and an Instagram and we posted [that] we would be opening soon, but in the meantime, we can pick up the stuff at your house.”
What started as a storage unit with a handful of bags turned into two 10-by-10 and two 10-by-20 units, filled floor to ceiling.
According to Max and Mia’s website, those wishing to consign their items can contact the store via social media, email or phone with their address and the items can be picked up the same day or within 24 hours; items also can be dropped off at the store.
Those at Max and Mia’s will then work to sell the item; if they don’t sell after a six-month or seasonal period, items can be returned or donated. The original owners receive 50 percent of the sales once the item is sold and can be notified via text message.
Cooper and Chernoff pride themselves on being different than other consignment shops and not following the “playbook” consignment franchises may have.
“A lot of people [will say] ‘they don’t do this,’ but we’re not them. First of all, there probably [aren’t] two guys who own a kids’ consignment shop anywhere in the country; we’re a little different to start with,” Cooper said, laughing.
Max and Mia’s is advertised as a children’s consignment store — the more popular items are children’s clothing and toys — but the shop also accepts teen clothing, shoes and maternity clothing and supplies, even breast pumps.
“Most teen girls have a lot of clothes, and when they outgrow the clothes, it comes in big bags. And not a lot of other places [carry] maternity because people give you their whole wardrobe; once they’re done, they’re done,” Cooper said.
Despite being open for a little over a month, Cooper and Chernoff are contemplating opening other Max and Mia’s locations to help clear out the storage units.
For now, the Hillsborough location is a family affair, similar to Cooper’s own upbringing. He said his children are often in the store — his 6-year-old can be found checking customers out at the register some days.
“My dad owned an Arthur Treacher’s [Fish and Chips], so, literally, from birth until I was 10, I would be there [or] I would be down in the warehouse,” Cooper said. “I kind of like that my kids like being here. They help organize, they all had tag guns tagging things before we opened. Now they fight over the register.”