We hope everyone is enjoying the first weekend of Fall. The weather has been gorgeous. Not too hot or cold. Just right. We’ve noticed some Fall foliage starting to take place around here. Eeek. Like many others, this is my favorite time of the year. There’s something about Fall that makes me want to get out and pick and junk till my hearts content. And speaking of pickin…we are interviewing, Alana Waters-Piper today of Nest Vintage Modern.
Nest Vintage Modern
@Jackson Square Antique Mall
112 East Burlington Ave.LaGrange, IL 708.352.4120
112 East Burlington Ave.LaGrange, IL 708.352.4120
We are so happy to have her here today. So let’s get started!
1 . How long have you been a vintage dealer? 4 years.
2. What type of setting are you in? I sell at Jackson Square Antique Mall in La Grange, IL. It’s about 20 minutes west of downtown Chicago. I was a customer there for 12 years before I got my own booth. I’ve found so many wonderful things for our home there, so it’s a great fit. I also do regional markets like Nellie’s Barn Sale and Kane County. Last year we had a blast at the Country Living Fair in Ohio. (Highly recommend making the trip!)
3. How many booths do you have? I keep one booth in the antique mall, then my traveling setup. -Plus I sell on Etsy.
4. What size booth/s do you have? My antique mall booth is about 10×18, but the market setup is usually about 10×10 and in front of my vintage trailer. I find that manageable to set up on my own.
5. What do you sell? I try to keep a defined story in mind for what I sell. Usually it’s something which could have been in my grandmother’s home. One grandmother was all about 40’s farmhouse style, the other was into designer mid-century. I tend to lean toward farmhouse with a little MCM thrown in. I’ll mix in new items that have vintage flair, like handmade pennants, candles, and jewelry.
6. What do you find sells the most in your booth? Linens. I think those really tug on people’s hearts. Folks see an old tablecloth and it takes them back to great moments with their mother or grandmother. They’re easy to store and usually affordable so you don’t have to feel guilty about picking one up for your collection.
7. What do find sells the least in your booth? Oddly, soaps. I really thought beautiful handmade soaps would sell well since it’s an affordable luxury, but nope! Sometimes I get a gut feeling that something will really light folks up, but sometimes it’s off. Oh well!
8. Why do you think your booth has been successful? I think it’s successful because everything about it is a genuine love of mine. My heart is completely in it. It’s not something I did just because I thought it was fun, though there’s not a thing wrong with that. A large reason I have my booth is because somehow going out to find, clean up, rescue, and find new homes for these items feels like I’m honoring my family history. My mother has 2 booths in Texas and has pretty much always done antique malls and markets. My grandfather on my dad’s side had an antique furniture store. My grandmother was a big believer in getting something well made then caring for and repairing it if needed. Things rarely got thrown out. She sewed her curtains, linens, and clothes. They were simple with pretty touches to make them special. A plain green pillowcase would get hand-tatted trim. Simple cotton curtains would get a plain ruffle to make them sweet. That’s what I grew up around and the wares I sell are tangible memoirs that honor the people I love. Does that make sense?
9. How often do you refresh your booth? I try to get it at least once a week to spruce up and add-to.
10. What mistakes have you made and learned from as dealer? Not mixing in enough smalls. At first I wanted to be all about furniture. The tough part with that is it makes doing markets absolutely exhausting. You’re basically moving an entire apartment’s worth of goods each weekend. Take a handful of good furniture pieces, then mix in linens and smalls. Make sure there’s a little something for anyone who likes your style. Something that’s an easy treat to indulge in, some good giftables, or affordable painted furniture that’s easy for a young woman trying to outfit her first home.
11. What advice do you have for someone just starting out? Paint the story you want to tell with your booth and stick to it. Make a set of questions that help you define the story you want your personal brand to be about. Keep asking yourself those questions as you hunt for goods, then you’ll have a cohesive collection instead of a box of clutter. That and get a Square reader & a reliable truck!
12. What do you think the number one mistake is that unsuccessful dealers make? Being inflexible or refusing to listen to their antique mall owners. Those folks know what sells in their space. Pick their brains and ask for advice.
13. Do you do this full time? I have before. I am now, but also freelance as a graphic designer.
14. Do you stick to a specific color scheme with your booth? No, but I try to keep my brand colors teal & red.
15. Do you utilize social media, and if so, which ones work best? I love Facebook. I started a page about 4 years ago and am up to just about 30,000 followers at this point. Pinterest is strong, but I’m not as strong on Twitter or Instagram. Facebook tends to be the place where we’re all more conversational. I’ll post a picture of an old Green Stamps book and everyone has a memory of them. Sometimes the conversations go on for days or weeks. I love that! It’s so fun to hear everyone’s stories.
16. How do you break down and come up with your prices? I balance between my comfort level as a potential customer, sold prices on eBay, Etsy, and my peers in the mall. I try to lean to the lower end of the price range for quicker sales. It’s better for customers to know they’ll see fresh goods when they come back then the same old stale stuff that I could have sold a long time ago if I had priced it for $10 less. Everything has to pay it’s rent. If a dresser sits for 6 months at $300 when it would have sold in 1 month at $200, then it didn’t pay it’s rent.
17. Where do you find your vintage goods? I’m so glad you asked! Watch our video here.
18. Do you change your booth out to reflect the season and or holidays? I do! I need to go over now and pull out the summer camping stuff, but I leave the picnic items and add wool blankets for fall tailgating. There’s a baseline of items which are always there, like dishes and furniture, but I’ll add touches of holiday items to making being there fun for customers.
19. Do you swap out stale merchandise or do you reduce it for a fast sale? I do! And sometimes it’s all about rearranging. I’ll move something from the shelf to a tabletop and all of a sudden it’s gone. For some reason people see it as new or maybe they didn’t see it before. So in addition to swapping out stale goods to go to market or putting it on sale, sometimes just rearranging stimulates sales.
20. Do you think booth location is important? YES! Absolutely, just like any retail location, you want to be in the main flow of traffic.
21. Do you use any kind of inventory software for your personal use? I use Square register to track sales at markets, then I keep photos & a list of everything at my antique mall booth.
22. Do you market your booth/s outside social media? I used to place print ads in local publications, but as much as I personally want to support print media, I’ve found that I get much more bang for my buck in social media, so that’s where all of my ad budget goes now.
Do you have any other advice tips or info you would like to add? Sell what you love. Pay attention to trends, but if you sell what you love it’ll always be fun. A couple winters ago I sold at a market about 4 hours from home. It was freezing cold and I slept in my chilly vintage camper but I had a blast! The people who do this for a living are good folks. Salt of the earth people who are usually pretty darn nice. Get out and meet the other dealers. You’ll see them over and over. They’ll become your clan of vintage gypsies, like family you look forward to seeing at the next market. It’s a wonderful community to be a part of.
Thank you so much, Alana for an awesome interview!