1. How long have you been a vintage dealer? In several different forms, I've been selling vintage for about 10 years.
2. What type of setting are you in? Living on Cape Cod, our population changes drastically from winter to summer, when we experience an influx of visitors. As a result, small business owners must be very creative and plan for the changing economy throughout the year. For sure, sales are at their highest during the summer, which I believe differs from other parts of the country.
3. How many booths do you have? Presently I have two locations, one large booth off-Cape in a 2-floored traditional group shop and one wee kitchen counter on-Cape in a 2-floored antique shop, both located in the centers of their respective towns. I also sell vintage at flea markets, bazaars, local special events or markets and I even popped up in a shop for a weekend. I spent last year in a wonderful little booth at Vintage Thymes Monthly Market, which has been my most favorite experience, but unfortunately located 1.5 hours away. For that booth, we were required each month to stage a new vignette, with new merchandise for the sale that would take place during the second weekend of the month. The space of about 20 dealers was filled with a wonderful mix of vintage and hand crafted items and was a very popular destination for customers. It was a great way to try out having my own little “shop.” I’ve found that setting up at local markets and holiday events requires a different mind-set when planning and prepping. Consideration of the types of customers you may encounter for that one day event is necessary, ensuring that you’ve packed up, then displayed the items most likely to sell. In these settings, I’ve had success with vintage items along with some vintage re-purposed handmade added in and set up to appear like a little shop on the go. It can be a lot of work for one day, so it’s important to balance the costs of the event with anticipated sales, and in some cases, I’ve found that collaboration with others to share a space has been a great option.
4. What size booth/s do you have? Currently, my vintage is located on a counter that is approximately 2’x7’ and a central floor space of approximately 10’x15’ . . .both of which present different challenges due to their sizes and configurations. I actually seem more comfortable working in a smaller space, so I’ve broken up my larger booth in to two spaces. My large space has a column that I’ve wrapped in shutters, allowing me “wall space” to hang framed pictures and art. In addition, I tend to stack smaller pieces of furniture to maximize display space and use a hutch –type piece as my focal point. To maximize space on the kitchen counter (yes, including a sink) I’ve used items such as a chair, cake stands, crate, step ladder, wicker shelf, stools and travel cases in order to add interest to what would otherwise be a very flat surface.
5. What do you sell? I sell items that speak to me . . .which tend to fall under a very broad category of rusty metal, glassware, picnicware, mid-century, kitchen, funky/what is it, nautical and pretty & sweet!
6. What do you find sells the most in your booth? It definitely depends upon the location, and shows the importance of knowing your market at each location. At my larger location where I’ve been for 8 months, I’m still trying to figure out what’s hot because it seems very hit or miss, but definitely Pyrex bowls & fridgies, framed artwork, old photos, nautical, serving utensils/cheese domes/cake plates and thermoses/picnicware. Due to the shop’s large size and number of other dealers, my sense is that if it’s price right, the item will sell or if the customer falls in love with the item. At my little kitchen counter, where I’ve been for 6 months, pitchers/creamers, dessert dishes/plates, ironstone and glassware have been popular.
7. What do find sells the least in your booth? Vintage purses, linens, furniture, books, galvanized
8. Why do you think your booth has been successful? I believe that I price fairly and ensure that my space looks different from the surrounding spaces.
9. How often do you refresh your booth? I try to visit my spaces at least 3 times per month for a refresh and adding new goods.
10. What mistakes have you made and learned from as dealer? Stay away from theme type purchases (for example, items specific to an upcoming holiday, other than Christmas) and stick with what I know, which is the items that speak to me or something that I myself would want. Also, I’ve found that I very much miss the interaction with customers in my booth spaces (since both shops are staffed) so am grateful for the customer interaction on Facebook and when I set up at local markets and events. I always love to learn about the beautiful old things that find their new homes!
11. What advice do you have for someone just starting out? Buy low so that you can afford to price fairly, stay organized and refresh your items in your space. Side note: when buying low, don’t go crazy buying items just because they’re cost effective, buy what you think will sell in the venues where you’ll be so as not to be burdened with a lot of extra stuff.
12. What do you think the number one mistake is that unsuccessful dealers make? Overpricing items
13. Do you do this full time? I do not, though I often dream of having my own shop full time!
14. Do you stick to a specific color scheme with your booth? I use a lot of green/white/beige for my furniture/set up pieces and try to group & layer items to tell a story either by color or by subject matter (back to school, nautical, farmhouse). At present, I have a red, white and blue shelf because I loved how my 4th of July vignette looked, but it’s about time to change up that display.
15. Do you utilize social media, and if so, which ones work best? I have been actively promoting my vintage at Vintage Picks by Jen on Facebook for two years now. I love posting and sharing and interacting with my FB friends and have sold a few items as a result of the page. Many of my FB friends have come to visit me at the various venues where I’ve set up, and it’s always such a thrill to meet them in person!
16. What is an average month in sales for your booth? $100-$400, depending upon location and time of year. . . I still consider it a hobby that I love.
17. How do you break down and come up with your prices? I wish I had a formula to offer but really, I tend to use my gut instinct. . . possibly based on what I would pay if it was an item I wanted. I always strive for a very fair price.
18. Where do you find your vintage goods? Yard sales, flea markets and thrift shops . . . oh, how I do love the hunt and not knowing what treasure will be found! Over the years, I’ve streamlined my visits to thrift shops, visiting the ones where the purchase of an item would still leave some meat on the bone. Some thrift shops have become gift shops and those I only frequent if I’m looking for something special. The item I’m always in search of for myself . . . Cathrineholm . . . and I have my kiddos trained to help in the search!
19. Do you change your booth out to reflect the season and or holidays? Yes, getting ready to change it up to a farmhouse fall! I do not recommend Christmas in July, however, I sold not one item!
20. Do you swap out stale merchandise or do you reduce it for a fast sale? I tend to do both but if I’m tired of looking at an item, I’ll drop the price and bring it to the flea market. Over the last few years, I’ve found that an item may not sell at one venue, but then sell immediately at another venue.
21. Do you think booth location is important? I’m sure that it is. During my year at Vintage Thymes Monthly Market, I was in a very small space, but it was a corner booth not far from check out, so I felt that it was a great location for my items. Both of my current spaces are located on the second floor, so I rely on standing out with a different look and pricing well. I had an opportunity to relocate my large space to the first floor, but it would have meant a move to a much smaller booth. I opted to stay in the larger location with a plan to make my space stand out.
22. Do you use any kind of inventory software for your personal use? I do not, I use notebooks for each venue to track my inventory.
23. Do you market your booth/s outside social media? Twice I’ve advertised on Craigslist for my large booth, but I haven’t yet gotten the sense that it’s been helpful. I’ve sold a couple of dressers on Craigslist, which was great for making a quick sale and recouping the cost of the items.
Do you have any other advice tips or info you would like to add? Do y If you’re breaking into the vintage business, make sure that you love vintage and all that comes with it! I started by taking baby steps . . . I set up a few times each summer at a flea market (rent is only $20-$25), two summers ago I decided to splurge and buy business cards, immediately setting up my Facebook page, soon after that I found Vintage Thymes Monthly Market while also consigning items at another shop. Now I “play shop” with my two booths while also setting up at a few markets throughout the year. My goal is to establish an Etsy page in order to share my vintage online. Buy what you love and enjoy the journey!