Tanya Tibbs, owner of Tanya’s 2nd stage, has built a business that thrives on economic hard times. (Staff photo by Diccon Hyatt.)

For years, Tanya Tibbs lived the life typical of so many Ewing residents — she worked at the GM plant as a welder, while raising a family and making sure her kids would be able to go through college.

When the plant closed in 1998, all that changed. Tibbs had to move to Delaware, then Michigan, to keep her job, and found it harder and harder to get by. In Michigan, shopping at consignment shops and thrift stores helped her make ends meet.

Now retired from GM after 32 years on the job, Tibbs has returned to Ewing to open up a thrift store of her own. Tanya’s 2nd stage, at 1540 1/2 Pennington Road, is a business that does best in times when people are trying to save money. That goes for both ends of the consignment shop equation.

“I’m getting a lot of older folks that are putting their things on consignment to make ends meet,” Tibbs said.

The customers are looking for bargains for various reasons. One woman even bought her wedding dress from Tibbs for her second marriage.

“She bought the prettiest wedding gown for forty dollars and a pair of shoes for fifteen dollars,” she said. “She was glowing when she went out the door. I made the husband stand outside while she tried it on and looked in the mirror. She said it looked like it had been made for her.”

The small store is stocked with everything from new and used clothing to small appliances and housewares, for cut-rate prices. There’s everything from a $1,500 fur coat to a $10 pair of sneakers.

After so many years as an employee of a big company, Tibbs is enjoying being her own boss and doing something that allows her to unleash her creativity. She also enjoys meeting new people.

“You don’t find really stuffy people coming in here,” she said. “It’s people that are down to earth and really interesting and nice folks. I’m enjoying it.”

Opening a consignment shop wasn’t Tibbs’s first choice. Her original plan was to open a flower shop. But she figured a new flower shop wouldn’t do well in Ewing with the tough economy and lots of competition from more established stores.

Tibbs gets some of her inventory by cleaning people’s houses for free, with her only payment being getting to keep the items the owners want to get rid of. Other things were donated by friends and family members, who responded generously when Tibbs sent out a letter asking for donations.

She also goes to estate sales.

Tanya’s 2nd Stage is open from 11 a.m. through 6:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call (609) 771-4343.

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Diccon Hyatt is business editor of U.S. 1. He has worked for Community News since 2006 and was previously community editor of the Ewing Observer, the Hopewell Express, the Lawrence Gazette, and the Trenton Downtowner. From 2003 to 2006, he was a general assignment reporter for the Middletown Transcript in Middletown, Delaware. In 2002, he graduated from the University of Delaware, where he was features editor of the student newspaper, The Review. He has won numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware D.C. Press Association and the Association of Free Community Newspapers for features, news, and opinion writing. He is married and lives in Marlton, NJ.