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July 13, 2011

How To Start Your Own Antique Business~Part I

The one question I get asked several times a week other than "where do you get all your stuff" is the question how I got started.  What I have seems to be a dream career for alot of people and they don't even know where to begin to make it happen........all I can tell you is that if you love old stuff as much as I love old stuff and have a knack for finding it, then the rest is pretty simple.

I feel certain there are tons of books, blogs, and reference materials out there which tell you what you should do if you want to get started selling all the wonderful items you find, redo, or reinvent.  Although there is no magical formula for this, there are alot of things I have learned within the last 25 years which might help you, and make it easier.  It's all pretty simple, but you have to have staying power if you want to make it successful......it's fun, but it's definitely not for sissies.

Firstly, I will tell you this has never been my dream....to own a little antique shoppe or do what I do.  I have reinvented myself many times along the way and this is just where I ended up.  I have, however, always loved all things old and have had a knack for recognizing quality, even when I had no idea what I was actually looking at.  You also have to remember that if you love it, I promise you someone else will as well.

If you are like I was, you already have a "real job" and that is a good thing........but you have been collecting and buying "good stuff" for some time now.  Your family has begged you to "stop" because you have too much....heard that before?  Become a dealer and everyone leaves you alone.  You now have a "license to buy" because you buy on the pretense of selling it, whether you ever do or not:)  It is wonderful because they then leave you alone because you are a "DEALER" :)  It all works out quite well.....and being a dealer can support your habit of continuing to shop for all the old things you love. So if you someday want your own antique store, start NOW in this small way so you are ready when the time comes.

~  Don't ever expect your business to support you, however, if you start out the way I tell you, it should at least pay for itself right away.....and build from there.  That's why it is so important to keep your "day job", starting small so you can learn as you go instead of investing a large amount of cash to make it happen.  Just too much pressure on your pocketbook and yourself.    That was the important thing for me.  I didn't want it to "cost" me anything.

~Scout your antique malls and determine which one is best for you.  Ask for their weekend sales figures and turnover rate.  Determine how much of what you have interest in is already for sale inside and see what you will be competing against.  Check the prices....too high? too low?  Evaluate how you feel about the dealers already inside.  Does it look like a garage sale or is it clean, wonderful, and full of things you want?  You might have to drive a bit further to get to the best location, but in the long run it will pay off for you.  You won't be going every day, however, you will need to check on your space at the very least twice a week, so take that into consideration and make it easy on yourself.

~Inquire about booth rental rates, lease requirements, and deposits.  Determine the occupancy rate of the mall location and ask how many available booths they have.  Just because they all appear to be full does not mean they are all rented.  They could be full of the owner's inventory and/or consignment product.  Be sure to inquire about advertising and/or work days.  If you have an actual job then work days can be a real problem.  I promise you learn to hate giving up one of your days off to work there....regardless of how much fun it seems like now.  If the mall requires a deposit, and alot do, negotiate.  I have never paid any money up front other than my first month's rent to move in any of the three malls I was in before I had my actual shoppe.......and that's when the economy was good as well.  A deposit is just not  necessary and always, always ask before just assuming this is a given.  Also, always negotiate at least 10 days to two weeks move in grace period before your actual lease begins.....that way you can hit the ground running with your sales as you want to make enough each month to pay your monthly lease......and then some :)  Don't be afraid to ask for what works for you.....just be reasonable.

~Rent the smallest space you can that will accommodate the type of items you sell.  We all have a tendency to think bigger is better, but in this case it's just more expensive.  Remember not to go too small for money's sake either....an 8x10 is a good size booth and a good place to start. 

~Take the time to paint the walls and make it your own before you move in.  If you don't, I promise it will never get done as it is just too difficult later on.  Some malls will let you go upward as high as you like...other's won't, so always ask.  I found that "real estate" in all the malls I was in was way too expensive to waste a bit of it, so I always went upwards.  Build corner shelves with doors, pergolas to stack things on top of, whatever is allowed.....just be sure you make it safe.

~Have a sign made with the name of your business clearly showing and hang it in a prominent place.  If people like your things, they will start referring to your space by name and you will build a reputation. 

~Have business cards made with your email address, blog address, and/or website or Etsy address on them if you have one.....make yourself available so they can relate to you as an actual person rather than just a booth of merchandise.

~Merchandising your inventory is key to being successful so I recommend furniture and bookshelves rather than pegboard shelving and such.......try to think of your space as a room in your home you are decorating as it creates warmth and is inviting.  It doesn't have to be anything other than painted cast off furniture, just make it interesting.

Ok......we have our location, our actual space, and our fixtures.....tomorrow we'll talk about the administrative end of keeping track of what we are doing.......hope to see you then.


  1. You are so kind to share your knowledge with others. I am sure this will inspire those that love love love old stuff to work on their dreams!

    I am starting to catch up on my Blog visits. I have been in Nashville at an art event and came home to no Internet! A storm fried our modem, DSL an phone! It's been out since last Friday so I am waaaaaaaay far behind!


  2. p.s. LOVE LOVE LOVE the new pics of Tatesy on the your sidebar!!


  3. Hi Jana!
    this is wonderful advice and I agree with everything that you are saying. I love what you said about getting a legitimate "buying fix!" LOL.

    I have been doing the booth thing for about three years now and I have to say that I have learned so much and made many mistakes along the way.

    It's a fun business, but it's also very hard work and it's all up to you whether or not you make it a success.

    I'm looking forward to your next post.


  4. Hello,

    It's great to see the passion for what you do while reading your post. Good for you!
    Love all these creatures on the right sidebar...and I do have an identical photo as a child like this lovely girl cruising...:o)

    ~ Gabriela ~

  5. Great advice Jana, thanks so much and I look forward to tomorrow, Char

  6. Hi Jana, Great advice. I just gave up my booth because the owners decided to change the rules. They were raising the rent, charging a percentage if your customer used a credit card, and charging you if you didn't donate time to them. They knew that my husband was in a wheel chair and they said it would be no problem. There was nothing in the original lease about them doing anything different. My lease still had three months to go. I just could not justify their wants. I still may get back into one again if the price is affordable and in a good location. What I would really like is a consignment store like the one that I had she sold everything I gave her on commission, but she had to close her shop due to health problems. I do so miss that. I will be looking forward t o your post tomorrow. A Missouri Friend.

  7. Hi Jana!! This is so awesome!! Your advice is spot on and I know there are so many people that would benefit from reading it!! I have a booth at the Antique Gallery in Spring and had a shop just north of Houston for a couple of years (which I miss terribly) but we had to close up for a while to take care of my aunt when she was diagnosed with cancer.
    Anyway, back to your post!!! I am starting a new link party on my blog for Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials!!! Your post would be PERFECT for linking up!! I hope you'll come and see. I did an intro post today just to get everyone acquainted with the idea but it begins on Friday at 12 am. You can even link up "Part 1" an "Part 2" separately. I hope you'll consider joining :))

  8. Wow! Fantastic advice! I got here via Michella....I am on to read Part 2.


Your comments mean alot to me......thank you for sharing.

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