Lana Spinu’s path to become a small-business owner has been longer and filled with more obstacles and surprises than most, but that probably goes with the territory when you arrive in Durango in 2007 from Moldova speaking only a few words of English.
Her journey toward business ownership – she opened Second Avenue Consignment, 1163 East Second Ave., in July – started in 2007 stocking shelves at south City Market.
She laughs now, recalling her amazement at frozen dough that could be made into bread without kneading or setting aside for an hour or two to rise.
“I was in City Market, I didn’t speak a word of English, and a man came up to me and started speaking to me. In Moldova, no one speaks to strangers,” she said. “I don’t know why, I just started crying. I was wondering why is this man speaking to me? What should I do?,”
Spinu had followed her husband, Severin Spinu, to Durango and to south City Market through a work-travel program that provided people with a job for three months and then offered them a month to travel.
The couple never realized Durango would become their home; Severin admits he knew nothing of Durango – he simply choose his American destination based on a list of wages offered in each town for various jobs.
“Actually, I picked Durango because I could make $10 an hour. Back then, the minimum wage was $7.25 an hour, and it turned out even better for me because they put me on the night shift, and I made $12 an hour,” he said.
Lana soon followed Severin, who is now a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Heritage House Realtors, to Durango and to south City Market
Besides City Market, Lana had stints working in house cleaning, day care, McDonald’s, Bealls and First National Bank of Durango (before it was bought by TBK Bank).
Many of Lana’s fellow McDonald’s employees spoke Spanish, and she began picking up Spanish serving Big Macs, Happy Meals and fries.
She also took English classes at the Durango Adult Education Center, where, during breaks, almost all of her fellow students spoke Spanish. She ended picking up more Spanish while learning English. Now, Lana, whose native Romanian language is a Romance language, is comfortable speaking both English and Spanish.
The genesis for Second Avenue Consignment came after a brief period when Lana worked with Severin in real estate.
The venture went less than smoothly.
“I have my own opinions, and he has his own opinions. This was the best decision for me, for both of us. I want to be my own boss,” Lana said.
Lana opened Second Avenue Consignment in July, slightly more than a month after small ma-and-pa businesses were allowed to reopen under COVID-19 restrictions.
She said: “I didn’t know anything, and I had an empty building. But I always wanted to be a business owner and make my own decisions, and I knew it had been a consignment store for 30 years, and I didn’t see why I couldn’t make it work.
The Spinus had lived in the Courthouse Apartments, across the street from the consignment shop, and Lana suspected the location’s legacy as a consignment shop would work in her favor.
Her hunch proved right.
“I have had 140 consigners in three months. I started with zero. The community helped me to build this,” she said. “Almost everyone who comes in here tells me they are happy I reopened the store. Yesterday, I had a family come to shop here from Farmington.”
Lana credits her landlord, Sharon Schell, the longtime owner of Second Time Around, with helping her devise consignment contracts, learning software to track items, working on a point-of-sale system and answering questions from a rookie business owner.
Second Avenue Consignment takes women’s, children’s and men’s clothes as well as accessories, home décor and jewelery with the shop getting 60% of the sale.
The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
The Spinus now see Durango as home. They’ve moved to a house in Dalton Ranch where they are raising their children Celina, 11, and Sebastian, 3.
“Really, we are the American dream,” Severin said. “People tell me things are tough here. I tell them go to Moldova for a month, and you’ll see what tough means.”
Severin and Lana came to America with a group of about 16 from Moldova who had come after college. Both the Spinus are qualified to teach history and law in their home country.
Most of Severin’s friends settled in big cities, principally Chicago.
“Everyone wants to visit me now,” he said. “For me big cities are all the same. When I see Chicago, I don’t see a community. In Durango, everybody knows everyone. To me, that feels like a community.”