Pulling the antique stores into the 21st century

Back in the day Antique Dealers were a different breed. They did their homework by reading books full of pictures of depression glassware with set prices. Deals were rarely given, and rarely offered. One would go into a shop and expect to see things put on dark wood shelves. And if one complained that things were a little dusty, they were shown a sign “no charge for extra dust”.

In fact, back in the day it was standard operation that it devalued a product to fix it up or even repair it. Antique stores were full of singer sewing machines, primitive kitchen utensils and high end pieces of oak furniture. Nothing wrong with this, as that’s what was in.

Well, as they say times they are a changing. Or should I say changed. Singer sewing machines are no longer as popular, but the stands are. As they are used as stands to about anything to make fun and funky tables. Now antique shops can be as diversified as we are as a people. Many of us have learned to adapt to the times. And in that people rather have something that functions, verses something just to look at; we have become furniture refurbishers. More of us treat our booths like our own personal gift shop with bright, clean and well lit spaces. Gone are the days of uncoordinated messes that could demand high prices without much personality. Today you can find not only unique items, but at reasonable prices. And we have the Internet to thank for this.

When ebay hit in the late 90s, for the first time we didn’t have to search through stores to find thenmissing creamer to aunt Helen’s sugar and creamer set we inherited. With a few clicks, and a account with PayPal one could find just about anything. At first it was fantastic, many of us sold on eBay. And many still do. But I think we were tempted to put our best items on eBay. As the odds are in our favor to get the best price on eBay. We didn’t have to risk breakage or it sitting there for awhile collecting dust. But we lost the human experience.

Craig’s list has affected the industry as well. I call it a double edge sword. It can be a source for some great deals for us, and our competition. But I find in general the prices there are a lot higher than we can even get. It’s also much like ebay, where people can also think their items are worth the asking price they see, so garage sale prices have gone up. But when I see many items on craigslist months, and sometimes years, it says to me, it’s not an exact science.

And then there’s Pinterest. Defiantly another double edge sword. I myself love it as I love being able to find ideas and trends. But now we can feel much more entitled to each others ideas. When my husband and I do craft shows, it’s amazing to me how many people try and take a picture of our original items. But all and all Pinterest is helpful to keep our creative juices flowing, making our products better for our customers. Though sometimes the Internet presents challenges, I think it has made our industry a better one. The dealers that have survived have done so because we have evolved and adapted, and do so because we love it. They have found new sources and have learned to paint and recreate something out of used items.

I talked with a friend of mine, a fellow dealer named Renee’. Even though she is going through intense chemo her voice softened as she spoke of the joy of putting love into each piece. In hopes that when it finds its way into a customers home, they will literally feel the love she put it. She sees her pieces as God sees us, broken but with loving care can become new again. And even in my book “A Most Incredible Witness” I compare the process of healing to refurbishing furniture, as it can be therapeutic.

From an owners point of view such as Craig who co-owns The Newport Avenue Antique Center in Ocean Beach Ca, (that we’re in) shared with me, that even though he fought it… paper is gone. He only advertises online now. As not too many look at the trade magazines, or yellow pages any more. But, the human experience is still the same. Though they find us through the Internet, no one looks at a piece they got online with fondness.

“There are no shortcuts when its about the hunt” Craig said. After the piece has landed in someone’s home it is more likely to become apart of their family when we associate it with time spent getting it. (Especially if they’re on vacation…as many are in our San Diego). As now that piece has the memory of who we were with, who helped us load it into our vehicle, etc.

Going to an antique store should be about the experience. As at the Carriage House in Hesperia Ca, you can sit up front, next to a real antique carriage and enjoy a cup of tea while pondering your choices.

Our prices now have to stay competitive to keep our products moving as a stagnant booth doesn’t pay the rent. There’s a dealer in The Newport Antique Center named Sandy that is there almost every day rearranging her beachy items, adjusting prices and keeping it fresh. We usually don’t make a killing and I know our tax lady every year just shakes her head. We do it for the thrill of seeing a space that is ours to do with what we want, and make others homes a little more homey. I know every piece of furniture that I do I wonder who will own it, and trust it will be loved once more.

While there has been an impact consider yourself invited to come into our stores. Adding the verb “antiquing” into your vocabulary. Where you can be little lost, and a little found.

Here are just some of the things I have done though the years.

Disclaimer…this is not my usual subject matter on my blog. But this article was picked up by fourteen publications dealing with the antique business. Pretty proud of that. Hope you enjoyed.

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