More than 70,000 items, such as this collection of Fiestaware, arrive each week at
the Replacements Ltd. warehouse, each of
which must be inspected and sorted.
a great wall
SARA D. DAVIS
Replacements Ltd. serves up
memories along with dinnerware
Name: Replacements Ltd.
Founder and CEO: Bob Page
Member at: Greensboro, NC since 2005
1089 Knox Road
McLeansville, NC 27301-9228
Phone: 1-800-REPLACE (737-5223)
Web site: www.replacements.com
Comments about Costco: Page’s
favorite Costco items include chips,
snack trays and candy. In fact, he carries
a candy bucket around the office, and
there’s a chance a dog, rabbit or other
furry friend might get a treat, too, since
Replacements allows its employees to
bring their pets to work.
“It’s Halloween every day around
here,” Page says. “I do love Costco. It’s
one of my favorite places.”
By Chris Penttila
OOPS. YOU’VE JUST dropped a gravy boat
that’s been passed down in your family from
generation to generation. What was a precious
heirloom two minutes ago is now scattered in
a dozen pieces on your kitchen floor. As you
reach for a broom, you get teary-eyed thinking it can never, ever be replaced. But never
fear: Replacements is here.
Replacements Ltd. is the world’s largest
supplier of china, crystal, silver and collectibles.
The showroom inside the company’s North
Carolina headquarters is lined with hundreds
of china patterns—some new, some shrouded
in centuries of history. Here you’ll find everything from antique patterns—such as Royal
Copenhagen “Flora Danica,” which dates to
1790 with dinner plates that retail
for $900 apiece—to trendy, modern collections
from Pier One, Crate & Barrel and Martha
Stewart popular with younger customers.
The company’s database tracks everything
up to the minute, and prices rise and fall con-
stantly based on supply and demand. “The
computer calculates what our buying prices
are,” explains Bob Page, Replacements Ltd.’s
founder and CEO.
Walk through the doors behind the showroom and you’ll enter Replacements’ cavernous warehouse, where distributors, suppliers
and garage-sale enthusiasts are unloading
boxes of plates, bowls and other fragile items
that are being carefully inspected for dents,
cracks and other irregularities by a team of
Replacements’ employees. Off to their left are
hundreds of floor-to-ceiling shelves that are
stacked with china, flatware and more.
On the other end, employees are busy
cleaning and restoring items sent in by customers. Replacements’ facility is so big that a few
years ago Rand McNally picked the company
as one of the top 25 free attractions in the
United States, and there’s usually a tour bus or
two in the parking lot.
Replacements’ clientele has ranged from
Hollywood producers, who contact the company to buy items for film and commercial
shoots, to U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who
contacted Replacements when a family teapot
lid broke. Other customers could be looking
for a long-lost piece of china they remember
from childhood or trying to complete a set
they already own.
Page has received dozens of customer letters over the years, including one from a
woman who—with Replacements’ help—
collected the entire china set her parents could
never afford to complete. “She was very
excited about surprising her parents by having
the whole set of china,” Page says. “For customers, it’s not just a plate. It’s something
Page sees great demand for recently discontinued patterns, as well as changing tastes in
flatware. “Silverplate is going out of vogue and
stainless is very popular,” he says. China patterns with shorter shelf lives are another trend.