Building a Business

Painting Our Booth Aubergine

When we moved into our small booth at Avonlea Antique Mall last July, the walls were a freshly painted light gray, a perfectly lovely color. Unfortunately, we didn’t select it. The excitement of having our first space had us floating above such trivial details as paint options.

A neutral color can work beautifully, but in this case it was unimpressive. To make matters worse, we  displayed some pieces painted in Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey.

This was our shop at Christmas. The not-for-sale poinsettia plant provided the biggest burst of color.

Christmas at Iris Abbey 2

It took to a while to accept the inevitable: we needed to change the color of our booth.

After kicking around several ideas, we turned to a seasoned pro. Suzi, one of Avonlea’s delightful owners, studied our booth and proclaimed, “Aubergine.” That settled it. David and I headed to Lowe’s for paint.

We coordinated our project with Avonlea’s photographers. Their job is to take photos for the new online store that’s coming soon. While they whisked our furniture to their photography studio, we moved into the space with our paintbrushes and rollers.

We started disassembling the booth in the late afternoon for minimum inconvenience of customers and other vendors. We worked hard and fast, despite this photo showing me sitting down on the job.

Painting a vendor's booth

At the end of a very long evening, we pushed our pieces into the booth, went home and collapsed. As much as we wanted to finish up, our bodies and the store were unwilling to accommodate. Too bad, really, but we would have been there until midnight or later.

I’m excited about a new addition that will enhance our booth’s new look: the gigantic mirror on the right. Made in Italy, it measures 55″ x 37″ and needs a large wall space to display its gorgeousness. Lucky for us, we have the perfect place for it in our space.

Painted Booth end of day

Homer wrote of “rosy-fingered dawn” in The Odyssey. For me, dawn came early and used her rosy fingers to slap me in the face. Getting out of bed was taxing because my body hurt and I wanted to sleep. But we pressed on.

David and I work well as a team. We’ve hung many, many pictures over the years and I know when to measure, when to hand him a hammer or drill, when to lift the frame for him to hang.

By the way, check out our new mirror, now front and center in the new snazzy space. Things are already looking up. Before we could even hang the mirror, a customer strolled by and took a photo of it to send it to her husband. Fingers crossed for a sale!

Booth with David

Here’s the almost-finished space. The Aubergine color is much more dramatic. With the Palladio mirror as a centerpiece, this feels like an entirely different space.

Aubergine paint in vendor's booth

These Before and After photos show the difference:

We are delighted with the Aubergine. It makes our space look like a designer’s showroom. One man stopped at our booth and asked, “What color is that?”

“Aubergine,” I said.

“Plum,” he corrected me.

Men. Whatever you call it, the color is rich, intense and beautiful.

Thanks so much for visiting us. Hope to see you next time.

Ann Marie and David

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Estate Sale Weekend, Part 1

We visit a lot of estate sales. Usually they are well run, orderly and pretty routine. The estate  rep’s job is to get as much money as possible for the client. My job is to select the day(s) we visit, seeking the widest selection at the lowest prices. It’s a dance. Sometimes a slow waltz, occasionally a fluid tango, and rarely a manic tarantella.

This weekend was crazy, so I thought I’d share our challenges and triumphs.  Part 1 begins on a Thursday.

Sale #1

San Jose House

We entered the wrought-iron gates of a lavish, Moorish mini-fortress. A family crest with swords hung above the gates. Beyond lay two oversized oaken gates. This residence, stretching on forever, seemed more like a castle than a sleepy suburban home.

Such an intriguing structure ensured a mob of rabid shoppers who surged with first-day, first-hour passion. Opening day, by the way, offers no discounts.

Along with many others, I had pored over the photos posted on http://www.estatesales.net and knew we’d find this home brimming with treasures. Religious icons from around the globe: a replica Russian synagogue, Byzantine icons, crucifixes, rosaries. And antlers, masks, Spanish furniture, metal works, sculptures and paintings —  just a few of items that drew eager shoppers from other states.

Usually an estate sale company provides holding pens of some kind. As shoppers select items, they place them in a plastic container or on a clearly designated table. Everybody respects the holding pen, typically located very close to the cashier.

Picture the press of people, too numerous to allow any coherent flow of traffic, bumping and jostling while continuously repeating “Excuse me” with little sincerity.

Among this crush of humanity — and a full room away from the cashier — I caught sight of something underneath a card table filled with merchandise. Wading though a sea of frantic people, I bent down and pulled out deer antlers.

This innocent act brought immediate wrath from a nearby shopper who quickly shoved her way next to me and angrily declared all of the items off limits.

“Somebody’s already claimed everything down there.”

She turned to another woman, “Didn’t that man say he wanted those?”

Her friend immediately picked up the refrain, “Yes, I’m pretty sure he said they’re his.”

Turning back to me, she explained, “Because I’m was interested in the one you’re holding but that man has already claimed it.”

That’s ridiculous and I don’t like hearsay. I need primary sources. These ladies were loud, pushy and utterly confident in their assessment. Like a fool, I set down my antlers and in two steps found a sales rep. Nope, she said, those aren’t being held for anybody.

I spun around to see the first lady holding my deer antlers — and with no interest in surrendering them. “Well, I wanted them first,” she said, matter-of-factly.

I kept mouth shut and pulled out another set: ram’s horns and pretty cool looking. I think they may be upside down in my photo.

The steep prices prevented us from buying much, but here’s what we walked away with:

Ram's Horns
Ram’s Horns
Faux Gold Crown
Faux Gold Crown From a Church Statue
Maya Man
Maya Man

Sale #2

This next one was a private sale, open to all, but the family had chosen to forego a professional estate-sale company. They were on their own. I don’t like private sales because things can go wrong quickly.

My dislike of private sales was further cemented after David and I found a small, beat-up Kittinger chest with numerous problems. A couple decorations were missing, but we found them in a drawer. OK, they could be reattached. The molding presented a bigger problem: an important corner piece was missing. David would have to create his own mold, fashion a replica and seamlessly attach it.

We debated for 20 minutes. The sticky-backed tag read “$75 — As Is.” The family member sitting in the room — the homeowner’s mother — acknowledged that it was a good price for that poor piece.

I took the tag to the cashier’s table, intending to ask for a $10 discount.You know, go bold or go home.

“This is for the small chest in the back room.”

“Can you describe it? I’m not sure which one.”

“The small Mediterranean one.”

“I can’t picture it . . . ”

And my BIG mistake: “The Kittinger.” (NEVER admit you know something about a piece.)

As soon as I said the name, the homeowner, sitting next to the cashier, snapped to attention.

“That’s not the right price,” she said, grabbing for the tag. I pulled it close to my chest, unwilling to surrender.

“That’s what it’s marked.”

“It should be $175. Somebody wrote it wrong. I called out the price but they wrote it wrong.”

“Look, I’m willing to pay the amount on this tag. $75. Because that’s what’s marked. I can pay for the piece and walk out with it right now.”

“No. It’s mine and I’m telling you that you can’t have it for that price.”

Defeated and steamed, I waited for David and Michael, our son, to come downstairs. I delivered the news and we knew what to do: leave immediately.

Sale #3

This large, charitable estate sale opened its doors 3 hours before we arrived. Every single piece of antique furniture that I was interested in lacked a price tag. That means somebody had already grabbed the tags and planned to buy the items. The buyer was either in line or still shopping.

Well, it turns out that antiques were unavailable because our State Attorney’s representative, who waited 1.5 hours for the doors to open, was buying in bulk to furnish their new offices in antique style. I just read about an Illinois Representative who found himself in hot water after he had his office decorated in Downtown Abbey’s style (because the decorator donated her services, but it counted as a gift). Is a trend forming in public buildings?

Anyway, this man purchased at least 11 big pieces. Good for him but so sad for me.

But this estate sale wasn’t a complete wash. Michael found a couple pieces of Mid-Century Modern by Dixie and we quickly pulled off their tags. I picked up a wooden cigar box from Honduras just because it looked quirky.

Dixie Mid-Century Modern Bedroom Set
Mid-Century Modern Dresser and Nightstand by Dixie

Cigar Box Honduras

Michael stopped to look at another Mid-Century Modern cabinet but, again, no price tag.  After a while, however, it became apparent that nobody was purchasing it. A friendly sales rep  scurried to find an answer.

Sold. The man running this sale had purchased it on behalf of his housekeeper and  forgotten to affix a Sold sign to the piece. Ewwww. Sorry, Michael. He was discouraged about that, but he’ll still be able to strip and stain his lovely MCM furniture and sell them.

The Estate Sale Weekend . . . continued here.

Thanks for visiting. We hope to see you for Part 2.

Ann Marie and David

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Rainy Day Magic

David and I are still in the acquisition, repair, and painting phases of our new business. Of course everything takes longer than expected. We’re still debating our grand opening online. January? November (obviously that didn’t work)? December? February? To repeat, everything takes longer than expected.

I want to share a bit of what goes into acquiring our furniture.

Just look at that gorgeous hardware.
Just look at that gorgeous hardware.

We woke early one recent Saturday morning to driving rain. Not so unusual in Florida’s hurricane season. Rather than roll over and pull up the covers–so tempting–David and I headed to an estate sale over an hour before the doors opened. We had rain jackets and umbrellas and anticipated a long line of eager, soggy buyers.

I knew an hour in the downpour would drench us. But this was the final day of an estate sale, which translated into 50% off at that particular sale.

Drexel Heritage Armoire Hardware 1

Small magical moments began to happen. We were the first in line. We stood under an overhang. The rain couldn’t touch us. I sat in a lightweight, folding chair that we brought. Fifteen minutes before the doors opened the seller peeked out. My determination must have charmed him because he promised me a 10-second head start. That is big.

I had scoped out the merchandise the previous afternoon, right before closing time. I knew the two matching pieces I wanted, where they were, and exactly how much they’d cost. Drexel Heritage. Solid. Beautiful.

Even without those 10 seconds I would have reached them before anybody. My choices disappointed the person third in line.

Next, we needed to transport them. That’s where our good neighbor, Jerry, came in. Jerry has a pickup. The guys drove over to load up the pieces while I cleared space in our study, where these beauties now keep me company. The dresser came with two attachable mirrors and the and the armoire is a true wardrobe armoire, not an entertainment system.

Drexel Heritage Dresser

Drexel Heritage Armoire

I love them. After I clean them up, I’m inclined to let the buyer choose the paint colors.

In the meantime we are almost finished with four other pieces.

Ann Marie

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