Permit me a small rant today. The cold weather is making my knees hurt, and Mother Nature is being coy with spring: she's warm, she's frigid, she's sunny, she's dreary. It always makes me just a little cranky.
I recently found an ISO ("In Search Of") post, asking to help find a china cabinet. The poster had a picture of the style she wanted - it was the kind we all love, with fun bits of curves and detailing, painted in a pretty shade of green.
She then went on to add that she "knew" we (pickers at large) ALL scooped up pieces like this for dirt cheap every day at "thrift stores and shops" and she wanted someone to tell her where she could get one to paint herself. She was demanding a short cut. She assumed there was a secret stash of antique furniture, and we were being stingy and keeping it to ourselves.
I didn't respond, and I have no idea if anyone else did either. But if I had replied to her, I think I would have tried to explain that no one just casually, greedily scoops up pieces like that every day. If you find a piece that's cheap, it may need a lot more than a little TLC. Or you may have to travel an inconvenient distance to get it. Or sit through an auction (or two or three) before you find one that's the right style and the right price.
Maybe before rehabbing and refurbishing became popular, good pieces of vintage furniture were common and dirt-cheap. But not anymore. Picking means spending time digging through a lot of junk to get to treasure, often in cold, drizzly weather, or sweltering heat. It means splinters and spiders and scratches and bruises. It means sifting through auction and estate sale listings, Craigslist ads and other exchanges, then driving to wherever the item is located to pick it up and hope it's in good condition, and dealing with it if it needs repaired. For some pickers, it means buying huge lots of pieces, loading up a trailer and then culling out the pieces that are beyond salvaging. That's not our model - we don't have a trailer or the storage capacity to deal with that volume of goods. So we're a little more dainty about what we pick, which means we often spend more time (and very often more money) to get the pieces that fit our shop's style.
Once we've found a diamond in the rough, the fun begins: washing off bird and mouse droppings, scraping away melted wax rings (why are there always wax rings????) wiping away spider egg sacs, sanding or stripping away layers of paint or stain, and then renovating a piece to make it beautiful and functional for someone to take home and love again.
Simply put, there are no shortcuts in this business. You can pay for someone else to do all of that, but it's not cheap, nor should it be.
And since I knew I couldn't say all of that without sounding like a curmudgeon, I scrolled on by her post. I hope she finds the piece she's seeking. But I also hope she looks back some day and realizes that her request was naive, and her assumptions were wrong. We love what we do, but there's skill and persistence and a lot of hard work involved.
We're almost at the one year anniversary mark of opening our shop. We've not only transformed this #littlelogcabin with renovated rooms, freshly painted walls and stained floors and stairs, we've scaled a steep learning curve on the administrative side: business licenses, tax filings, local ordinances, lease agreements, hardware, software, credit card processors, vendor and consignor relations, marketing...it goes on and on. Experience is a demanding teacher and she gives us daily lessons.
At the same time, we've continued to broaden and fine-tune our furniture refinishing skills, using different paints and stains and sealers. We're continuing to learn new techniques and skills to make sure our pieces are enduring and beautiful for another generation.
As I was writing this post, I reflected on a seminar I attended about 20 years ago, led by Mr. Covey. His principles have stuck with me - they are timeless and applicable to nearly every facet of life. Maybe because it's spring and I love to garden, but this axiom seemed appropriate to this post/rant.
As we look ahead to another year, Sherri and I are humbled and blessed by the friendships we've made with customers who have come through our doors and kept us going through our year of "firsts." We've made rookie mistakes - and learned from them. Thank you for the grace and kindness you've extended to us, and we hope we'll continue to improve in all we do and cultivate trust and friendships with all of you. And we hope you all find the treasures you seek...and enjoy the journey that leads you to them.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!