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An Interview with Melissa Mazzeo

Co-Owner and CEO, Merry Go Rounds consignment shop

This spring we had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Mazzeo. She and her mom own the fabulous kids consignment store Merry Go Rounds, conveniently located at the Village Shoppes in North Easton. After a visit to the store, I was so impressed with Merry Go Rounds’ business model, mission and philosophy, and selection, as well as Melissa’s personable customer service, that I wrote a South Shore Family Adventures blog post about the experience. I cannot say enough good things about this amazing local business. Click here to learn more about Melissa (she’s fascinating–she lived in Africa for three years and has hung out with mountain gorillas!) and here to learn more about Merry Go Rounds.

1. How did you get involved in running Merry Go Rounds?

My mom has owned Merry Go Rounds since I was young. I grew up wearing secondhand clothes — either from the store or hand-me-downs from cousins — and it’s a big part of what shaped my personal values of sustainable consumption. I’ve always been involved in the business in some way, but it wasn’t until later that I realized I could connect my personal passions for sustainability and environmental impact to my career path. Through Merry Go Rounds, I can promote sustainable consumption habits and help people recognize that living sustainably is not a sacrifice. Key to this mission is to normalizing resale and making it the default way to shop, not the exception. I half-jokingly refer to myself as a “resale evangelist” — I’m truly passionate about getting people to change their perceptions of secondhand shopping.

I decided to go to graduate school for business and environmental management to learn how to grow and expand the business. When I was in grad school, I worked on the business through different entrepreneurship programs and by the time I graduated in May 2020 (yes, mid-pandemic), I was ready to work on it full-time. I joined my mom as co-owner and have been in the role of CEO since then.

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2. How have general attitudes toward used clothing, sustainability, consigning etc. changed since you opened 30 years ago?

Our society is in the midst of a resale renaissance. Reuse and resale are becoming more socially accepted among consumers, and we’re nearing a tipping point for them to become mainstream. Thanks to high-profile companies like Poshmark, The RealReal, and thredUP, the traditional view of resale shopping as an undesirable activity done out of economic necessity is changing. In its 2019 Resale Report, thredUP notes that the resale industry has grown 21 times faster than traditional retail over the past three years, and is predicted to reach $51 billion in the next five years. Much of this growth is led by millennial and Gen-Z consumers, who are the two most likely generations to shop resale. These generations are also becoming parents (and aunts, uncles, and godparents), representing a rapidly growing market for our offering. While we still have a lot of work to do to make resale truly mainstream, things are trending in the right direction. And more broadly, consumers are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact and choosing to buy from sustainable businesses. We’re proud to have been part of the resale and sustainability movements from the beginning!

3. What sets Merry Go Rounds apart from other consignment stores?

I’ll begin by saying that I love other consignment stores! Again, we’re part of a broader shared movement, and I don’t want to compete or “disrupt” (to use startup/business school lingo). The resale community is incredibly welcoming and supportive, and I’m consistently impressed with how willing people are to help. We’re a member of the official resale business association, NARTS, and I’ve gotten so much assistance from other members on everything from photography tips to pricing guides to suggestions on how to maximize retail space. 

That all being said, there are some parts of our business that we’re especially proud of. One is the integration of both in-store and online sales. You can’t replicate the community aspect of a physical store online, but you can’t beat the convenience of ecommerce. Since we launched our online store about a year ago, we’re proud to be able to offer both options.

We also take pride in our custom Merryboxes, which are one-of-a-kind clothing bundles based on your chosen size, gender, and style. We personally curate coordinating outfits, taking the guesswork out of shopping resale and bringing in the element of surprise. Merryboxes are great for parents who don’t want to spend time picking out individual items, and they also make great gifts.

Finally, we take our commitment to social and environmental impact seriously. We’ve registered our business as a Massachusetts public benefit corporation and become a Certified B Corp to formalize that commitment and hold ourselves accountable. In addition to the inherently sustainable nature of resale, we want our business to be a leader in social responsibility by promoting equity and diversity, being a great place to work, and being an active member of our local and business communities.

4. Do you shop for used clothes for yourself?  What is your best second-hand find?

YES! The vast majority of my clothes are secondhand. Besides the sustainability component, which I’ve already made clear is a passion of mine, I just love fashion — and shopping resale gives me access to designers that would have been out of my budget otherwise. Whenever I travel, I make a point to scope out consignment shops in the area. I prefer to shop in person because the experience is so important: both the joy of shopping and meeting fellow store owners, and the practicality of being able to try things on. It’s hard to choose a favorite find, but I’ll name a few: an embroidered Yves Saint Laurent cardigan I found at Sweet Jane’s in Worcester, a lightweight wool Morgane Le Fay dress from Vintage Taste in Boston, tortoiseshell Hugo Boss sunglasses that came from a pop-up shop in Johannesburg, and my growing collection of Equipment silk button-down shirts.

5. What are a few of your favorite items that have come through the shop?

This is another hard question to answer! But I love anything that has a backstory — so I love to hear when something has been worn for the first day of school, a birthday, a holiday. I always ask customers to send photos of their kids wearing our clothes on special days. And of course, I love kids’ fashion. We get such a wide range of items, from high-end names like Chloe and Versace, to cult favorites like Tea and Mini Boden, to independent brands like TANE Organics and Feather Baby, to quality staples like Gap and Nike — but adorable designs never get old.

6. What do you love best about your job?

Hands down, the people. It’s been so rewarding to meet others with a shared goal: whether that be through resale as well, or through other aspects of sustainability (growing local and organic food, teaching kids about nature and the environment, advocating for small businesses and thriving local economies, to name just a few).

There are also so many people who aren’t actively working towards sustainability but who have been a true joy to meet: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors. Our business serves as a gathering place, and it’s been a gift to be able to bring together such a wonderful, diverse group of people.

Thank you, Melissa, for your time and your insight!! We wish you and Merry Go Rounds the very best!

Visit Merry Go Rounds at 285 Washington St, North Easton, MA 02356.

Please note: this is NOT a sponsored post! We simply believe in Melissa and her business/mission!

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