When my youngest was three, I ventured out in to the real world and rented a space in a handmade and vintage store. I did pretty well, but there were problems including accounting and theft. In my affluent town, shoppers unpinned the price tags and switched them around.
I quit the craft store and invested in a price gun. Then I joined an antique store collective three towns away with 35 dealers. I had a bumpy start, with some of the other dealers not liking my quick success at sales. They tattled to the owner about this or that. At one point she threatened to kick me out, because my vintage clothes smelled bad. That’s when my rented room was the one with the bathroom off of it.
I promised to remove the offending clothes and changed rooms, away from the stinky old bathroom. The other dealers bought my stuff, marked it up, and put it in their rooms. I was good with that. I still made a profit, even though they knew I had priced my items too low.
I sold aprons (the other dealers laughed at first), tea cups, and linens. Soon other dealers brought in aprons to sell. I re-framed pictures and rented a wall outside of my room to hang them up.
One day I bought a red cast iron wood stove at a garage sale for $50.00. I took it to the store that afternoon, marked it at $150.00 and sold it by the end of the day. Another dealer named Bobbie bought it, marked it up to $300.00 and sold it to the store owner, who loved anything red. I made $100, Bobbie made $150, and the owner got a red wood stove.
People came into the store with items to sell. The owner got first crack at things, then the workers of the day got a chance. I bought some good stuff that way.
Every month I had to work two days. When I saw all the items people bought and how much they paid for them, I got a real education. By the time my youngest was eight, I’d earned my degree in antique dealer school, compliments of the older ladies at the collective.
I quit the antique collective and joined another one in my town. I had a picker who brought me stuff, and he also had to truck to pick up things that I bought at estate sales. I made a lot of money at the Paris Flea Market. Then I left there and joined a woman who had a new shop called the Terrace. I paid her rent for my two rooms, but when I started selling more than she did, she wanted to change the agreement. She wanted me to help her buy a new air conditioner. She moved my stuff around (in my rented rooms) and she ruined a few of my things by putting potted plants on my wood pieces, which left water rings. She also let people return things that they’d bought from my rooms. It wasn’t working out. I gave my notice and sold down the stuff I didn’t care about and packed up the rest.
I opened my own shop in 2005 when my youngest was eleven. I had a partner for five months, but she wasn’t serious about it and sent her kids to work in her place. After one of her teens left the door unlocked overnight, I knew I had to cut her loose. It was easy since everything was in my name – the lease, the phone bill, the credit card machine.
I had my own shop for six years, half of those years during a bad recession. I still managed to net over $100,000.00 (don’t tell my ex!). I learned a lot, had lots of fun, and also had lots of headaches.
I would NEVER do it again, but I’m glad I did it.
I owe it all to those grumpy ladies at the antique collective, who showed me how it was done, even if some of them didn’t mean to help me. I was thinking about those ladies today, the good ones.