Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Next Generation of Vintage Shoppers

The discussion among online sellers these days revolves around how to reach the next generation of vintage shopper. There is a generation of creative talent out there, a group that uses vintage items to “re-purpose” and “re-create”. That notion often sends a collective shudder through the vintage community. There are some purists (I count myself among them) who have a heart wrenching moment when they see beautiful pieces of vintage costume jewelry, pottery, glass, or porcelain torn asunder and turned into something “re-purposed.” It is not that the finished product does not hold beauty, or is not of value – it is the destruction of the old to create the new. 

Today’s online community, the very people driving the marketplace and the creativity and the new and exciting ventures, have used computers since they were in diapers (think Leap Pad). They have been on the internet since pre-school. The internet is their learning platform, it is their creative platform and has become their social platform and their networking platform. It is where they go to shop, first. Want a new widget? Well, let’s go online and compare prices before we even leave our house. Let’s see who has the best widget for the best price. Let’s go online and read reviews. Let’s go online and see who has the one I want in stock. Let’s order it online and have it delivered to the store, or even delivered right to our front door. 

Today’s shopper carries the internet in their hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the form of their smart phone, or their tablet device. They can scan a barcode in a store and find reviews of an item, and where to find best price within a reasonable driving radius – or where to purchase it online. I attend auctions and estate sales and wander flea markets in search of treasures and delights. I’m a collector and I’m a shop owner. When I look around at the auctioneers, the people running the estate sales and the vendors at the flea markets, the majority of those people are my peers. Once in a while I will see a vendor at a flea market who is in their 20s or 30s, but the vast majority are 50 plus. I’ve met only met a few auctioneers under 40. 

In a recent discussion with my favorite auctioneer, their concern was the aging auctioneer community. They had recently attended a convention of their state’s auctioneer community – and looked around the room to find that the attendees were all of the same generation. Where are the new faces? Where will the new generation come from when his generation is ready to step down? How do we as sellers reach the next generation of vintage and antique collectors? Those who love vintage and antiques for what they are, as they are, and appreciate them for their own beauty rather than something to be re-purposed or re-used. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for going “green” and reusing and recycling. But there is a lot to be said for the treasures of our past and keeping the beauty of the past generations alive. How do we as sellers communicate with the generation that thinks something made in 1970 is an antique? 

I’ve been working with a group of sellers on The Vintage Village, and we’re asking ourselves how we use today’s tools to reach that next generation of antique, vintage and collectible shopper. There’s a group devoted to Ruby Lane, and another devoted to Ruby Plaza there. We’re exploring adventures in Facebook, where there is a community working together called “Got Vintage?” We help each other learn the new marketing techniques online that will keep us in the emerging internet marketplace. I’m learning to use online platforms, like Pinterest, to build momentum forward and reach that next generation. I’m using Twitter, and learning the value of tweeting. 

As online sellers, we have to move forward with change and we have to learn how to use it to be effective for our business model. I was delighted to see Ruby Lane add a Pinterest button right to each listing! It allows our customers to pin items of ours directly to their pin boards and create a buzz on Pinterest about our vintage and antique items! We can use them to pin our own items to boards. This is in addition to the buttons for Facebook and Twitter. It’s growth, it’s change, and it’s good for us! Now we just need to learn how to use these tools effectively to grow our own business and to build a new generation of antique and vintage lovers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ring in the New Year !!!

Have you made your plans for New Year’s Day yet? 
I didn’t think so.
Heck, we haven't even had Christmas and here I am talking about New Year's Day.

If you’re in the DC metro area, let me suggest this auction to you: 

The Chesapeake Auction House in St. Leonard, Maryland. 

The auction starts at 10 a.m. sharp and will be chock full of wonderful antiques and collectibles. The New Year's Day auction is always a big event, with high end furniture and lots of collectibles.

They have a great image gallery on their website here. Inventory for this auction is arriving daily, and the website is updated frequently so keep checking back.

There’s a large assortment of MCM furniture. This is the kind of place where you never know what you’ll find! One of the items featured in this auction is a Mid Century Modern sofa from Dunbar. The sofa is designed by Edward Wormley, the head designer at Dunbar in Berne, Indiana. Think Don Draper. Think “Mad Men”. Think ultra chic. Trendy and now.

There’s a great blonde 1950s era China Cabinet and Buffet. The handles are large circles, bent. It really gives off a Heywood Wakefield vibe but it doesn’t have any labels or markings. We’ve heard rumors that some signed Heywood Wakefield will be arriving soon.

If MCM isn’t your thing, there’s a fabulous Tiger Oak round table … with 2 leaves and 4 chairs.

A Victorian coffee table is coming. There’s a 1940s white metal table. Sterling silver candlesticks. Something for everyone. 

Good food, too, from Dream Weaver Catering in Prince Frederick.

See ya there!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Change is not a four letter word

Yet I tend to react to hearing the word “change” as if I’m hearing a four-letter word. I cover my ears. I stop listening. My knee-jerk reaction is to respond with a vehement howling “Noooooooooooooo.” Then I may run wildly around the room waving my hands and screaming like a banshee: “The sky is falling, the sky is falling” in my best Chicken Little imitation. Mass hysteria! Panic! Doom! Mayhem! Or, in the words of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, PANDELERIUM !!!
Phew. Ok. I feel better. I got that off my chest.
The recent changes to the Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza websites have caused outright pandelerium for both sellers and shoppers alike. As a shop owner, I’ve had to hold off listing treasures I’ve found that I just know my customers have been searching to buy. As a shopper, I’ve been unable to complete a transaction – only to have that item snatched up by another lucky shopper. I did manage to complete the transaction for a super awesome egg bracelet for my egg jewelry collection.
Every cloud does have its silver lining. In the midst of the chaos, shoppers were able to purchase from us … items did get listed … sales did happen … we were able to communicate with Ruby Lane’s awesome staff … we were kept updated of the status to the best of their ability … and we worked hard at having patience.
This morning I fired up my computer, signed into my Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza shops and was amazed at the speed of page loads. Pictures were all there. Links worked smoothly.
I made the business decision to put all my energy into selling exclusively on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza. I am proud to have my business linked to the premiere online selling site for antiques and vintage items. The newest Ruby Plaza venture is in its infancy and shows great promise. While some have questioned putting all my “eggs in one basket”, it is a decision I researched diligently after selling “all over the place” before. I had diluted my energy, lost my focus, and spent most of my time dashing from one site to another. Everything was half-done. A little bit here. A little bit there. I worked myself to a frazzle for very little financial gain, and even less emotional satisfaction. Since making the decision to become exclusive to Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza, I have never looked back. I’ve never second-guessed that decision. I’ve learned that my lack of attention to detail was slowing down my progress and not allowing my business to flourish. There were intricacies to selling online that I had not taken into consideration. Since concentrating my focus on selling successfully on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza, my sales have increased, my knowledge about selling successfully on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza has increased, and my actual workload has decreased. Yes. You read that right. Decreased. As they say, I am now working “smarter not harder.”
I’m choosing to look at the past few days as time to do some shopkeeping. Cleaned up my office. Caught up on paperwork. Worked on my writing. Took some photographs to have at the ready. Cleaned some inventory. Did some research and reading. Oh, and nursed a bad head cold. Timing is everything, you know.

An early present ...

I love all things Christmas. And I love red. And I love earrings. And I love lampwork beads.

So, I bought myself a little present.

And they arrived today.
And I am in love with them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving ... and Giving Thanks

This is the story of a brother and sister separated for 35 years. A brother and sister who became family when the brother came to live with the sister. They were 5 years old. They bonded, they loved each other, they were each other’s best friends – and then the brother was taken away.

When I was a little girl, my parents decided to become foster parents. I don’t know what their motivation was, but both of them came from big families and they wanted to have lots of children. My “new” brother came to live with us when we were both about 5. He didn’t speak much English. He was born in Panama to an American mother. His mother brought him and his 5 (yes FIVE) siblings to America. Life became difficult for her, and the children ended up in the foster care system – separated into 5 different foster homes. My brother was small, tiny, very thin. Undernourished. With the brightest eyes, the sweetest smile, and starving for attention and affection. He found a Mommy & Daddy. He found a new brother and sister. He had his own bed, his own toys, his own clothes. He had all the food he could eat … meatloaf, fried chicken, pineapple upside down cake. Good, solid, homemade all-American food.

His new Mommy worked with him, learning English. She sang the Connie Francis song “Never on Sunday” to him to help him learn the days of the week. She took care of him when he was sick with a “rare tropical disease,” that turned out to be the mumps. When his new Mommy found out that he had other siblings in different foster homes, she worked to find them and help him spend time with his other siblings.

The time came when his father’s family in Panama found the children, all scattered in different foster homes. Arrangements were made to re-unite the siblings and take them back to Panama to live with their father and grandparents.

I didn’t understand how other people could take my brother away from me. I don’t remember being at the airport for the reunion of the siblings, and his departure from our family, but I’ve been told that I was distraught and hysterical. I couldn’t understand how those people could take my brother away. He was mine. He was my best friend and playmate. We shared a bedroom. We shared the mumps, the measles and the chicken pox. We went to church together. We went to school together. We did our homework together.

Life went on. My brother grew up in Panama with his siblings, his father, his grandparents and extended family. I grew up with my parents and two biological brothers. We kept in touch with my brother and his family. He did visit us on occasion. We always had gifts and cards from his grandparents.  He spent some summers with us.

When we were teenagers – 14 or 15 – my brother came to live with us again. We went to junior high together. We were again each other’s best friend. We had the same friends, rode our bikes, went to school together, parties, dances … and again he was suddenly ripped from my life.  My parents explained it to me as a “problem with discipline.” He was “out of control.” They couldn’t “handle” him. I didn’t understand. I didn’t see what they were talking about. I wondered if I became a problem, if they would just get rid of me, too.

If we fast forward a few years, my brother showed up in our lives again when we were young adults. He was living back in my hometown, working with one of our cousins! It was magical. There he was. But the reunion was short-lived. One day he just disappeared. POOF. He was gone. Nobody could find him.  He was just gone.

Life went on. I had a family of my own. Moved around. Worked. All those things life brings us. Years passed. Decades passed. I never forgot my brother. I wondered about him all the time. A framed picture of the two of us sat on a table in my home, always. He was an integral part of my life and my childhood memories. When my Mother became ill and was dying, she gave me a box of letters he had written her over the years. There were photographs he sent her of his life in Panama. Cards from his grandparents. She said to me:  “If anyone is going to find him, it will be you.”

The advent of the internet gave me new tools to search for my brother. Periodically I would search for his name. His grandfather’s name. I never knew where to search. What city? What country? When I joined Facebook, I would often search his name there.

Last November I typed in my brother’s name … and THERE HE WAS. I recognized his face immediately. My heart skipped a beat, my hands got sweaty & shaky. I sent him a private message and just said “I think you’re my brother. I’ve been looking for you.”

Our first phone call lasted over an hour. I had to tell him that Mom was gone – she had died 17 years earlier. We both needed time after that call, and it was a month before we spoke again. Our conversations were always good, and there was laughter and tears. He was able to talk to Dad, and had a visit with him.

The time finally came that we were both ready to see each other. My husband encouraged me to see my brother, spend time with him … it was his encouragement that pushed me forward to set up a reunion with my brother. The date was set. The right time came. We travelled to my brother’s home.


There he was. The same slender boy. The same sparkling eyes. The same shy smile.
Hugs. Smiles. Tears. Stories. Laughter. More tears. More laughter. The first day was 6 hours of talking. The second day was 8 hours of talking. I gave him the box of letters Mom had saved. An envelope of pictures with his name in her handwriting on the outside.  More photographs I found. An album of pictures of Mom and Dad for him to look through.  Some of his stories filled in the gaps in my memory. Some of my stories filled in the gaps in his memory. He learned that he was never forgotten, and always loved. I learned that I was never forgotten, and always loved.

My husband learned more about “who” I am through our shared memories of our not-always-happy childhood. My brother’s wife learned more about “who” my brother is … and more about his family. They sat with us and held our hands, supported us as we shared painful memories and happy memories. I cannot express the gratitude I have to both of them for encouraging us, being there to share these moments with us, supporting both of us through this weekend ... When we went back to our hotel room at night, my husband would help me process all my emotions – and would hold me while I cried at the painful ones.

Our journey has come full circle and brought us back together, just as we should be.

Brother and Sister.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Thrill of the Hunt

I am a hunter. 
My husband is a gatherer.

There is a difference. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt. Finding a treasure in an unexpected place. Bargaining with the person selling the item, seeking out the best deal on whatever I might be buying.

My husband enjoys acquiring things and having things and having more things. He gathers them around him and keeps them. Lots of them (whatever they might be). The price doesn’t matter. He sees it, he wants it, he buys it.

When we got married we had to blend our shopping styles. The first time he wanted a new pair of jeans and walked into the store and just bought them, I almost fainted. He didn’t check the sale ads. He didn’t look for the clearance rack. He didn’t even check the price tag on the jeans he purchased. He just picked up his size, walked to the cashier and paid for them. The hunter in me flinched. The gatherer in him went home and took the tags off the jeans and put them in the closet with his 100 additional pair of jeans.

Really? That’s how you shop?

I introduced him to auctions. At his first auction he was timid. He wanted a chair he saw, but didn’t understand the bidding process. I explained to him that he needed to decide how much he was willing to pay for the chair, and raise his card up until the chair got to that price. Once it went above the price he had set as what he was willing to pay, he should stop bidding. As a gatherer accustomed to walking into a store and buying things at a fixed price, this idea was difficult for him to grasp. He was used to paying full price for anything he bought without thought to sales or finding a bargain. Imagine his delight when the auctioneer’s hammer came down and he bought his chair for one-third the price he was willing to pay for it! The chair is still in our living room, and I smile every time I see it, remembering his first auction.

He learned about the thrill of the hunt that evening.

I’ve learned to temper my hunting: considering the cost of fuel and time involved in making a purchase and finding “the best price” possible. Sometimes it just isn’t cost effective to drive all over town and spend three hours to save a dollar. When it is a big purchase and there are many dollars to be saved, the fuel costs and time involved are worth the investment.

Online shopping has become an excellent way to comparison shop for most items, and with Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza I never have to leave the comfort of my home to find exactly what I want – whether it’s a gift, home d├ęcor, art, jewelry, clothing or the perfect addition to my collection of egg-themed items. I can shop at midnight or I can shop at noon. I don’t have to wear makeup! The “make an offer” option allows me to engage in conversation with the shop owner and “hunt” for the best price. I can even Skype with the shop owner if they have that option! I can add the item to my wish list. I can share it on Facebook (with gentle hints to my kids that I’d sure love that item for my birthday!). I can Tweet the item so my followers who collect can find the item easily. The layaway option gives me the opportunity to purchase an item I really want and stay within my monthly shopping budget. Some shop owners even offer gift wrapping, perfect for a busy schedule and last-minute holiday shopping!

Who is ready to join me for an online shopping trip today? As always, it’s come as you are! All you have to do is fire up your computer, and join me on Ruby Lane or Ruby Plaza!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!

There is an air of excitement in our Charming Home this week !!!
My beloved St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series!

I was raised in the Midwest, and am a life-long Cardinals baseball fan.
The Charming Husband is cheering them on, but he's really a Seattle Mariners fan at heart. 

It will be a busy week here ... keeping up with the scores and statistics!

There's nothing, for me, like the excitement of watching the Cardinals play in a World Series game ... and in person the atmosphere is electrifying.

This year, I'll settle for the big screen television, popcorn and cheering on my favorite team!

Let's go, Cardinals!
Let's go !!!