I've travelled to the central part of North Carolina several times now, and each time I've gone, I've seen the Replacements Ltd. retail warehouse from the highway. The other day I saw an intriguing photo from inside the store (online, not pictured here) and knew I had to check this place out the next time I was in Greensboro. This shop is a museum, a retail shop, warehouse and distribution center. The focus of this store is dishes, silverware and collectibles.
It's important to note right off the bat, that I'm really not into china. I never understood the wedding tradition of purchasing 16 sets of formal china and silverware that you use only twice a year and need large pieces of furniture to store it in. (I love the everyday, crisp white plates in unusual shapes that you'd find in upscale Asian restaurants. But I digress.) I can, however, appreciate the artistry that goes into creating these pieces of art. This was NOT the reason I stopped in though. I'll get to that shortly.
I ended up taking the tour, which is offered every half hour. I was the only one on the tour so I had the chance to take a lot of photos and ask a lot of questions. The tour was quite interesting. Here are a few of the things I saw and learned about the place: The owner, Bob Page, started collecting dishes at garage sales and stored them in his attic. In 1981, he opened his shop. It grew! Today, Replacements Ltd. has more than 265,000 china patterns. and it can now boast that it has the largest collection of dinnerware in the world. If you cracked that rare plate from 100 years ago, chances are they can repair it, find a replacement for you onsite, or track it down somewhere in the world. They can even carve custom designs into existing silverware for you, using their special equipment in the back.
In the back portion of the shop is the museum where items are not for sale. Did you see that Wedgewood on the heels of the shoes pictured at the top of the page? Certainly, this cash resister isn't going anywhere.
Perhaps a matador lladro is more to your liking? No? There's also an entire room devoted just to Christmas collectibles. And speaking of a bull in a china shop, Replacement, Ltd. is dog friendly. Dogs are actually welcome inside this shop where a single item, worth thousands, can sit exposed on top of a glass cabinet. Is that crazy or what!!!!
Okay, then. So if I'm not into all this, why did I stop in? And why did I take the tour?
Because I wanted access to the back (behind the storefront and museum).
I wanted to get inside the warehouse, the distribution center. And that I did. My mouth hit the floor when I first stepped through the doors. I've never seen anything like this before. I've been to IKEA, of course, but this seemed to be in a league of its own.
According to the Replacement, Ltd. website, the facility is 500,00 square feet, equal to eight football fields. It went on FOREVER! I'm personally fascinated how places like this store and ship so much merchandise so quickly.
On the tour I was able to see: where 12 million pieces of inventory were stored; where it was prepared for shipping; where it was reviewed, cataloged and repaired. I got to see where the employees spent their lunch breaks. I passed through the call center and the resource library.
Perhaps I am just a geek, but I'd rather spend my time in the back of a retail shop learning how this "little guy" to the left got here and how he might find a new home. Fascinating. It was well worth my stop off the highway. For more information on the shop (they buy and sell), click here.