What Goes Around Comes Around at Winooski Décor Store Full Circle | Housewares & Décor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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What Goes Around Comes Around at Winooski Décor Store Full Circle


Published December 10, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

Full Circle in Winooski - COURTESY OF JESSE KECK
  • Courtesy Of Jesse Keck
  • Full Circle in Winooski

A visit to Full Circle in Winooski is a stimulating experience. At first, the jumble of styles and colors in the home décor shop can be overwhelming. But owner Melissa Mills' artistic touch makes the visit enjoyable — and fruitful. It's not hard to envision a bookcase or dining table from the store in your home.

Hardwood floors and clean white walls provide the backdrop for a shop brimming with vintage and new items — think scented candles in glass jars with colorful illustrations, small brass tabletop sculptures of egrets and smoky quartz-colored rocks glasses. Mills, 49, stages it all in artful tableaux. A table set with cups and napkins tied up with little bows appears ready for a party.

Full Circle opened in February 2017 and is Mills' debut effort in retail; before this, she worked at Seventh Generation. Actually, she still does. Mills moved from managing the customer service team to the marketing department last year.

"I love Seventh Generation. I wanted to stay there and figured it would probably be a good move for me to do both in tandem," she says.

Mills studied interior design at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass. "I never used the interior design [professionally]," she says, but "it's something I've always wanted to do. I saw this space on Craigslist, and it was just a blank slate."

It didn't take much to convince Mills that opening a store was a good idea. "I called the guy that owned it, he gave me a tour, and I put the money down," she says.

Nest caught up with Mills at Full Circle to learn more about her biz, her love for Winooski and her buying habits.

I imagine there's a lot to learn when you're starting your first business. Were there any hiccups in figuring it out?

Melissa Mills, owner of Full Circle in Winooski - COURTESY OF JESSE KECK
  • Courtesy Of Jesse Keck
  • Melissa Mills, owner of Full Circle in Winooski

There was a lot to learn. I started doing the research in September last year, right after I signed the lease. And the Vermont Small Business [Development Center] was a huge help; I met with them once a month, and [they] would help me with my business plan. [They] put me in connection with a lot of people from the City of Winooski and taught me how to do my finances. I also did a lot of research online.

Where did the inventory come from?

I had a lot of inventory at my house — I like to shop! And I like to refurbish stuff. I went on a couple of buying trips, too. My parents live in Florida, so I spent some time there and bought a bunch of stuff.

How did you get it back?

I shipped it. That was my first business mistake. Never ship a lot of stuff — it costs a fortune! Then I went to [Brimfield Antique Flea Market] with my sister. We rented a truck and filled it and just had the best time.

Now that the business is somewhat established, I have customers coming to me wanting to get rid of things they have in their closets or basements or attics. [I'll take it] as long as it fits with the aesthetic, which is pretty eclectic. There's a lot of different styles within the store. I usually buy based on what I like but also trying to think of customers' taste. If I had it my way, everything would be midcentury modern.

Who are your customers?

A lot of millennials. Of course, Winooski is an up-and-coming community. A lot of young couples live here, young college kids. And then older ladies. It's a huge range.

A friend of mine who sells home goods online thinks she might need a storefront at some point, because, she says, "I have a problem: I can't stop! Am I a hoarder or an entrepreneur?"

I have that conversation with so many customers. Am I a hoarder? That show ["Hoarders"] kind of ruined it for all of us, because we're like, "Oh, God, is that me?" My husband said, "If you bring home one more décor item, I'm just going to explode."

It got to the point where I was hiding stuff in my closet before we got home and then taking it out and saying, "Oh, that old thing, I've had it forever!" The other thing with him was changing around the rooms all the time. It got to the point where he would just ask, "So, where's the remote this week?"

Full Circle in Winooski - COURTESY OF JESSE KECK
  • Courtesy Of Jesse Keck
  • Full Circle in Winooski

Because you were interested in renegotiating the space and making it feel good.

Exactly, and I love change.

So, hoarder or curator?

I would prefer curator.

What skills did you bring from customer service and marketing to this job, and what have you had to learn?

I think the most important piece has been customer service. That's just ingrained in me. I've been in that field for a really long time, and I feel really comfortable with the front-of-the-store type of functions, dealing with customers, making sure they're happy. The thing that I've had to learn is mainly the finance stuff, taxes and licenses.

Why Winooski?

The Winooski community is very important to me. One of my focuses in opening this business was to be very accessible to as many people as I possibly could [and] giving back to the community. Once in a while, if I have extra stuff that isn't selling, I'll put a box outside for free.

And I have these little girls who live behind the store who are my favorite customers. They're in second or third grade, they're all related, and they come in every Saturday and, I swear to God, spend four hours here. When it's slow, we do arts and crafts; they sit at my register and play music — we have the best time. And the grandmother will come over and say, "You need to leave Melissa alone," but I totally enjoy it. They're adorable.

I just want to be able to contribute to the community, to give back as much as I can. The city is growing, which I think is exciting.

What inspired the store's name?

There's a double meaning. I think, for the furniture, a lot of it's coming full circle. You look at this table, and it was built in the '50s. My grandparents had this table. When I found this, I was like, "I have to get this." And it's still perfectly good. It's functional, it's awesome, and it brings a lot of good feelings to people. They're like, "Oh, my God, my parents had that same set!"

So, I would say the furniture, bringing it full circle and giving it new life and not just throwing it in the dump. And myself, I think, coming full circle, really loving design and finally [having] enough courage to dive into it. 

The original print version of this article was headlined "In the Loop"