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Valley thrift stores owner focuses on customers

Esteban Miranda doesn’t want you to think about his thrift store as just another second hand shop but rather a legitimate retail establishment. It’s the vision of a recent college business graduate who is embracing the role of entrepreneur with bigger things in mind.

Miranda, 26, of Merced, owns Miranda’s Thrift Shop stores in Turlock, Merced and Atwater, with plans to open another store soon in Modesto when details are worked out.

“We are trying to change the environment of the stores you walk into,” Miranda explains. “It’s important that we know what the customer wants. I see a potential if you do it the right way.”

Miranda’s Thrift Shop locations offer furniture, appliances, home décor, clothing and accessories, sports equipment, toys and video games, CDs and DVDs, shoes and popular home entertainment devices. Kitchen utensils, dishware, figurines, lamps, wicker, canvas paintings and tools also are up for grabs at Miranda’s stores.

Miranda says as he opens new stores he learns new things. He says he has discovered how important it is to have the correct management and staff members. His company has 16 employees.

He says it’s a matter of “educating ourselves on styles and trends, types of inventory and how it’s displayed.” The emphasis is on what the customer really wants — and what they don’t like.

At least one or two aisles of his stores are devoted to home décor. It’s part of his effort to attract people with education and higher incomes. He says he has noticed more young people coming to his stores to decorate their homes.

For instance, some customers may prefer their merchandise clean and shiny. But many others are attracted to older-style furniture and don’t mind that these pieces are scratched and worn-looking. Miranda is thinking about adding a DYI (do-it-yourself) section which could change the perception of customers about vintage, well-worn but still usable items just sporting a little extra patina and begging for a personal update.

Miranda says many of his customers want to relive their childhoods and maybe own something they used to have, sold years ago or couldn’t afford way back when.

As part of his learning curve, Miranda says he is trying to hire experts knowledgeable in antiques, vintage clothing and furniture. He concedes it’s not easy to teach people all these things but says he has created a system that makes it easier.

Miranda hopes to open his Modesto store near Orangeburg and Coffee avenues. But he wants to restructure everything from the business systems to the form of the store before launching it.

Miranda graduated from California State University, Fresno, in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an option in entrepreneurship. He won a $5,000 grant at CSUF while going to school, which he says definitely helped him starting out his business.

He opened his first thrift store in Merced at Main and M streets in May 2013, moving that November to a store near G Street and Yosemite Avenue before relocating it to West Olive Avenue. He opened his Turlock store on Countryside Drive in July 2014 and his Atwater store on Bellevue Road in 2015.

Miranda says he enjoys what he does, especially if the stores are well-structured with good employees. If a store is built the right way, he will have more time to oversee and head off problems and go in new directions.

Ultimately he would like to become a real estate developer and start a moving service.

“I’m the visionary but I don’t know everything. A smart person knows how to get help from the right people,” Miranda says. “I hate depending on other people. Eventually I want to have my own buildings. Rent definitely is not cheap.”

Michael McMinassian of Fresno has known Miranda since college days and says his friend “thinks outside the box” and has a different mentality about business. He is always thinking about his customers.

Despite his success, Miranda is very humble, McMinassian says.

What doesn’t sell? Miranda says people don’t want most old kitchen items and outdated technology. Clothing that’s not branded or isn’t in style doesn’t sell and most eight-track and VHS tapes are “dinosaurs.” They don’t want garage sale leftovers either.

“I am marketing to families. I want a little bit of everything for everybody and want to focus on what sells best,” Miranda says.

Miranda uses social media regularly, particularly Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Craigslist. Pictures of sale items are posted online. He has a website,

, and is in the process of updating it now.

He talks to high school students at their career days and in business classes, saying teens can relate to a younger person.

“At the end of the day what keeps me motivated and inspires me to open my business is seeing a lot of kids look up to me. How bad do you want to make it through school? There is a lot of pressure today and nobody is going to push you. You need to be surrounded by the right people.”