Our New Venture – A Vagabond Antique and Art Shop – Brick and Mortar!
Posted On March 13, 2014
Coming back to the USA was difficult for me. I want the best opportunities for my daughter in terms of health and education and since I can’t move my family to Canada, France, or the UK – it made sense for us to move back to my home country. Coming to the USA has been difficult for my wife – but she is resilient and adapting well.
One of the big problems for both of us was that of finding work – much to my surprise, nearly a year on and I find myself doing the same work that was supporting us in Morocco and Turkey (blogging) but in a much more expensive country. Over the past few years, it seems that Google and the FCC really have it in for independent bloggers and they’ve systematically made it harder and harder to earn a buck web logging – and yet – here we are. Still going.
We wouldn’t have made it without a second income – one that has always been a sort of second nature to me – picking. From the time we arrived in the USA we’ve been cruising estate sales, thrift shops, antique shops, and garage sales and grabbing overlooked treasure – then reselling it on eBay. It’s made the difference in making rent and putting gas in our tanks. Picking is a lifetime skill and I enjoy it.
A series of rather lucky events led to me putting my skills to work when a high school friend lost his parents. He needed to have a series of estate sales and didn’t have any ideas about how to run them or price things, research things, or set it up. This was like graduate school for me – suddenly, I was faced with the valuable horde of three generations of art lovers – depression glass, cast brass sculptures, paintings, French furniture, Italian art glass, Turkish brass, Japanese lacquerware, antique wood working tools, paintings and the list goes on and on.
Over last summer we turned what probably would have been fairly good garage sales into highly profitable estate sales – and – we cleared out a huge amount of day to day stuff in the process. I discovered my sales skills are good enough to sell three cords of firewood for a profit in 115 degree summer weather and during the countless hours of digging on the internet and in antique books – I learned about everything from Bohemian glass to Hummel figurines to vintage fishing gear and old oil cans.
Our first two sales were focused on the less than extraordinary stuff – which, in point of fact, was really extraordinary when compared with most stuff you see at sales, but not so extraordinary as the stuff we didnt’ sell. There is still all the French furniture, the Japanese wood block prints, the Victorian decorative items and more…and a truck load of smaller brick-a-brack of great beauty and moderate worth. The big success was that we cleared out enough stuff so my friends could deal with it and we didn’t accidentally give away any great treasures. We knew what we were selling and we got fair prices for it.
After the estate sales, my wife and my picking became much better. With the knowledge we’d earned, we could go to estate and garage sales – even those that had already been professionally picked – and find the extraordinary that had been missed. An example – yesterday I paid $10 at a thrift store for a painting that is most certainly worth several thousand — there is more research to do – but the painting was done by a prisoner in the Green Haven Prison facility named E. Conway in 1970. The picture does not do this oil on canvas winter scene justice…but certainly it is worth more than $10 – there is something darkly magical about it.
So, my point is that we’ve accumulated a nice collection of items and a storehouse of knowledge that exceeded our eBay store and my office’s capacity to hold them. So, we decided to open a brick and mortar store. We didn’t have the money to open a full store, nor the inventory – so we opted to open a space in an antique mall. The rent is $200 per month and the owner of the mall takes a hefty 15% commission, but the store is well known and has a wonderful location – so, we don’t have to be there or pay utilities or hire employees.
As we were making the arrangements, I wondered if we had enough inventory – then I thought of my friends and asked if they wanted to consign all those boxes of stuff in our shop – they agreed and we took a quick to trip to California to pick it up. It turns out we probably could have filled our little space – but their antiques and Japanese stuff really brought life to our space and gave us such an abundance of inventory that we don’t have to worry about it being empty for quite a while. Kismit and with any luck (and hard work), they will get more through our shop than they would through a garage or estate sale. The past week, I’ve been researching and inventorying hundreds of items – pricing, buying furniture, and setting up our shop. We opened last Tuesday and so far – well, we don’t really know. The busy tourist season on Highway 101 starts in a few weeks – we have our fingers crossed.
Eventually, we would like to have our own shop and perhaps even our own little antique mall – but for now – we are starting small. Please come and visit.
Brown Dog Antiques – 595 U.S. 101 -Florence, OR 97439 –
Come in and go to the back and you’ll see us. I will be writing more about my research interesting items and art in general on this blog. I hope that we can build a little community around antiques and art – where you can share your treasures and we can share ours.