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Stevens Mill redux

At the end of the day


A story about not being politically correct: Stevens Mill redux


By Ginger Costen

Sometimes putting up a good fight just isn’t worth the effort. It’s been a while since earning my BS in Business Administration but every now and again I think about something my accounting professor used to say.

“Going into business isn’t for the weak of heart or the braindead. You have to be realistic as probably won’t make money for the first two years,” he would announce. “But don’t worry, Uncle Sam’s there to make sure you don’t get lazy. If you’re still losing money after three years, IRS will look at it as a hobby!”

So when do you ask yourself if owning this business is worth the effort, or is the IRS right… this is a hobby.

That moment happened to me last month. It wasn’t any easy decision nor was it something completely under my control. For the past several years my family has been operating a small Internet business selling items on Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Alibris, etc. The income didn’t yield a fancy new car every year nor did it provide for a luxury vacation. But it did give us the opportunity to work together as a family and have fun going to yard sales and thrift stores in search of those once-in-a- life-time bargains that made the pursuit worth the effort.

I was hooked the first time I bought an old book published in 1846 from the first medical school in Boston for 25 cents and sold it for $115. I couldn’t believe it when my husband bought an unopened can of hardtack from WWI for $1 and sold it for $225 on Ebay. But as more people got into the online resale business those days were often few and far between.    

To make up for the loss of the higher net proceeds we had to increase the volume and eventually we found ourselves on the edge of being considered a hoarder (we had our business based out of our home) as small paths of egress slowly took over our wide open spaces.  We eventually opted to move the business out of our home and into a space in an old mill.

“Things” went well for a while until a partner bought a bootleg copy of a Zumba video and Amazon permanently removed our ability to sell anything on their site. We dissolved the operation and went out on our own again, eventually rebuilding our reputation on Amazon. Finally after two years we were able to make ends meet and had actually started making money to reinvest and improve our inventory.

Then I met the new owners of the Stevens Linen Mill at 137 Schofield Ave in Dudley. Within two months my rent went from $350 to $650 and then a mandatory lease of $850 for five years, or higher if I wanted to commit to fewer years.

As I mentioned in my story last month, the new owners David and Yonathan (I wasn’t given a last name) aren’t used to working with us thrifty-minded New Englanders and it’s really difficult to have a conversation when you’re only a dollar sign and the person you’re trying to talk with speaks very little English and would rather talk in depth to the only other person in the room speaking his language. 

However, I’m the one paying rent and the last time I checked the zip code of 01571 is in the United States of America and since my ancestors landed here almost 400 years ago to what would become Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maine, this American wants to speak English.  I didn’t move to your country expecting you to learn English, so don’t move to my country and expect me to learn Arabic, Spanish or whatever.

I’m tired of being politically correct and even more tired of apologizing because I can’t understand nor communicate with someone who moved to my country.  So at the end of the day I had to realize that our family business is more of a hobby and it doesn’t bring me half as much fun as the real hobbies in my life.  Where did I leave those garden gloves? I hope I didn’t sell them on Ebay.   I also learned something writing last month’s story. I didn’t know that Steven’s Linen is still making and manufacturing items right here in the good old USA. YES! They’re in New Hampshire and you can find them at