Second Glance
Jessica and Nancy Kneisel of Second Glance and theAnnex are finalists in the Austin Famly Business awards. (Scobel Wiggins/Gazette-Times)

Is that my necklace?” Jessica Kneisel asked good-naturedly by way of greeting to her mother, Nancy Kneisel, on a recent afternoon at Second Glance.

The two women share a lot of things, including their love of fashion and good deals at two successful downtown shops.

“We get to come to work and play in a big closet every day … we do something fun and we win awards,” said Nancy Kneisel. “How many people get to say that?”

Nancy was a finalist in the micro category for this year’s Excellence in Family Business Award, presented by Oregon State University’s Austin Family Business Program. In addition, she was given the Robert C. Ingalls Business Person of the Year award at this year’s Celebrate Corvallis awards ceremony and November’s Orange Spotlight Award by the Oregon State University Powered by Orange campaign.

Nancy has run Second Glance, located at 312 S.W. Third St., for 26 years. In 2008, she added The Second Glance Annex around the corner at 214 S.W. Jefferson Ave., where her 29-year-old daughter, Jessica, manages a  store focused on younger trends.

The original store is a bit more classic, but no less fun with Nancy in constant motion greeting customers, setting up dressing rooms and working the front counter to take in new apparel for consignment. On special days, the shop might offer shoppers a taste of champagne or cupcakes. In addition to Nancy, there are eight employees and several seasonal workers.

Both stores focus on resale of recent fashions.

“When the economy was tanking, I think a lot of people became a lot more conscious about how they were spending their money,” Jessica said. “You’re not walking into a thrift store; you’re not walking in and getting the cast-offs from 50 years ago; you’re walking in and you’re getting items that were well-loved from the last two years.”

Added Nancy: “It’s like a treasure every day. You never know what’s going to come in. Everything has been cherry-picked and I know that the value that I’m presenting is a really good value, so I make no apologies because I have thought about it from every angle.”

Nancy and her husband both graduated from Oregon State University in 1976. He went on to get a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

Nancy earned a general science degree in history, English and art. Afterward, when the couple married and moved to Alaska, she started taking small business classes. But her real teacher has been experience.

“When I started Second Glance it was really truly learn as you go,” she said.

Nancy’s two daughters grew up around the store, but had their first jobs at the Dairy Queen across the street.

Jessica got her degree in fashion merchandising at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and interned at a high-end consignment store in New Orleans and at Nordstrom’s before deciding to return to Corvallis and join her mother in business.

They originally looked at placing the Annex in Portland, Wilsonville and Salem before finding the ideal location just a few blocks away in downtown Corvallis.

“That place literally fell in my lap,” Nancy said. “I don’t think I anticipated that it was going to be that popular. It really stunned me the number of people that found her store first.”

“We’ve got a lot of walk-by traffic,” Jessica said.

Right now, the Kneisels are in the process of rebranding the shops with a new logo and website.

“In all businesses, you need to keep yourself fresh,” Nancy said. “The creative part of this business, you can’t beat it, it is just too dang much fun.”

Their goal is to have five new shops in five years. The next location will likely be for menswear in Corvallis, and the rest will be in other cities around Oregon.

Nancy Raskauskas covers city government and business for the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

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