Melissa Baxter has always known the value of a dollar. When she was 11 years old and her brother Jason was 9, they started their own lawn service. They borrowed the $99 they needed for a push mower from their mother, who made them pay it back with interest.
"When I was 15, my mother made me work in a thrift store," Baxter said.
Even with a part-time job, she graduated from high school a year early and then worked her way through college. She had every intention to graduate, but at age 20, with six courses to go, she heard through the grapevine that Dot York, owner of Back by Popular Demand in Lilburn was retiring and wanted to sell her 22-year-old consignment boutique.
"I had exactly $5.13 in my checking account," Baxter said. "Living like I was, I could account for every penny I had."
Since she'd gotten as far as she had with as little as she had and had experience in the business, she decided to make a career of catering to penny-pinchers like herself. In 2002, without even knowing where Lilburn was (except that it was OTP -- outside the perimeter) she bought the shop sight unseen. Four years later, she moved up to a new location with more than twice the space.
"It was actually a blessing for me to have worked like I did and gotten all that experience," Baxter said.
All of her merchandise, which includes books and household items, is of high quality. All clothing is clean, in "like new" condition, in style and mall brand or better. More than 40 percent of the items still have the original price tags attached.
But Back by Popular Demand keeps more than just clothes recycling through the community.
"We also do a lot in animal rescues and adoptions by default. We seem to happen upon an animal in need that we then take to Beaver Crossing Animal Hospital to make sure it has all of its shots. The store pays for this and then the dog is put up for adoption. Last year we were able to find homes for six dogs."
Baxter has also raised funds for causes like the Lilburn Co-op and Haiti Relief and has given financial assistance to needy families.
"Being in this business opens many doors to seeing needs that may or may not be being met. God has truly blessed our business and it is our responsibility to pass it on when he presents areas of need," she said. "We do two $1 sales a year where we put up all the merchandise that did not sell during the past season. The sale is in our parking lot and all proceeds are donated to a local charity. Typically we raise between $1,200 to $1,600."
Remember, everything is $1. Do the math. This is big. But then, as Baxter says, so are her blessings.
Her next $1 sale -- which is definitely back by popular demand -- will be on Saturday. All proceeds will benefit Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen which supplies free pet food for needy families who might otherwise have to give up their pets. And any pet that can stay with its family is just one more blessing.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.