When Tanya Mahrous accepted a buyout package from her corporate job she knew exactly what she wanted her next move to be. She wanted to start a business that combined a favorite pastime—bargain hunting—and a passion—helping homeless pets. She returned briefly to her hometown of Lincoln, Neb., where she shadowed a friend with a second-hand shop. Then with her husband, Toby Tobias, she opened her dream shop, Second Life, in Avondale Estates earlier this month.
The business name has a double meaning. When customers buy the previously owned items in the store they help to give homeless animals a chance at adoption. Actually a nonprofit, the business depends on donated items and volunteer help. Mahrous is the only employee. “And right now, I’m pretty much a volunteer, too,” Second Life’s president and co-founder said with a laugh. Tobias, who spends most of his time working toward a Ph.D. degree at the University of Georgia, works there on a volunteer basis whenever he has free time.
Profits are donated to four non-profit organizations that have missions that involve rescuing animals. One day, Mahrous said, there may be actual adoption events at the store, which she said offers education on spaying, neutering and pet adoption. The only animal in the store most days, however, is the couple’s Dalmatian Lucky.
“He’s our CSO—our chief smile officer,” Mahrous said. “He makes our customers smile.” The 15- or 16-year-old animal—elderly by dog standards—comes slowly forward to check out strangers who come in, then returns to his bed in the corner.
She said that Lucky, whom they adopted just days before he was scheduled to be euthanized, has been with them approximately 10 years. “He was classified as hard to place because he was a large, older dog—and male. Most people want smaller dogs and want to adopt them as puppies. They also more often want females. I can’t imagine what the last 10 years would have been like without him.”
After looking around a bit, Mahrous and Tobias settled on the space near North Clarendon and Avondale Road, which she said seems to be working out perfectly. It’s near their home and has other advantages as well. “There are lots of other bargain shops in the area—Finders Keepers, the Salvation Army—and that actually helps since people shopping resale stores like to go to areas where there are several of them. We’re right next to the police station so we feel safe, and it’s a nice large space.”
In fact, the owners first thought the space might be too big. “We were going to partition it off to keep it from looking bare, but that hasn’t been necessary since large numbers of donations came in the first week,” Mahrous said.
She noted that she’s also pleased with the quality of the merchandise that’s being donated. “Many of our donors tell me that they are so delighted with what we’re doing that they are happy to donate high quality items.”
Mahrous said that her experience as a bargain hunter has helped in pricing the merchandise. When something really unusual is donated, she may ask the donor for help in assessing its value. Second Life sells gently used clothing, home décor and furniture in a boutique-style environment. The owners say they are striving for consignment store quality at thrift store prices. “We want to give our customers good deals, but we want to make enough money to make a real difference,” Mahrous said.
Noting that approximately 80,000 unwanted pets—about 200 a day—are put to death in the Atlanta area each year, Mahrous said, “If we can reduce that number substantially, this will all be worthwhile.” The store’s mantra, she said, is “save money; save a pet’s life.”