Written by The Business Journal Staff
These glimpses of the past only continue as one enters newest Tower antique shop, Vonrad Vintage, which opened in July.
At Vonrad Vintage, local picker Lisa Radecki and her vendors display a wealth of classic and vintage items, from mid-century furniture and décor, dubbed “Mad Men” swag, to elegant Victorian bedroom sets and all the oddities in between.
“At Tower district shop, it’s like a free museum because you can find stuff from the 1800s, a couple things from the 1700s, and plenty of things from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, so even if you don’t end up buying anything, just checking it out is cool,” Radecki said.
Of course, Radecki does hope those rummaging through the Tower store’s collections of vintage clothes, industrial metal and rustic farm equipment, and art deco pieces, do find something they wish to purchase.
As a business model, owning and operating an antique store is tough. For Radecki, part of being successful is finding unique items with a niche that have a high resale value.
Radecki has found many of the mid-century items she carries are trending thanks to the success of the show “Mad Men.”
Resale is also on the upswing in the fashion industry, according to a recent report by ThredUP, an online fashion reseller. According to the report, women specifically no longer want to spend their hard-earned dollars on new wardrobes and instead are turning to trading and selling the old items in their closet for vintage pieces that are new to them. ThredUP predicts this trend will continue and that the total resale market will be a $25 billion industry in 2025.
While most of this growth is projected to come from e-commerce, a modest 3 percent increase is projected for traditional retail.
While following trends is essential for resale retailers, for a small business owner like Radecki, teaming up with other locals passionate about antiques is also a must.
Altogether, Vonrad Vintage features items from nine vendors aside from Radecki. These vendors include Mermaid Treasures, operated by Radecki’s daughter Valerie Hill and Silas Foster; Elizabeth’s Sweet Seconds by Elizabeth Calderon; Time and Time Again by Lisa and Eddy Case; Mag Pie Past Time Treasures by Margaret Romero; Junkie Deluxe by George Huddleston; RJ Treasures by Tony and Donna Leah; and Karma Zen Collections by Jenifer and Kevin Henson.
Each vendor rents their space in the store from Radecki and is in charge of displaying items in their area. Some follow a theme, like Time and Time Again, which features the only collection of repurposed items in the store, but most offer an eclectic mix of vintage items.
“We’re all trying to make a living selling things,” Radecki said. “It’s a difficult business and the lady who owned this space before me had a similar store and had to shut down because she didn’t have any vendors. Having vendors helps me pay the rent on the building. I’m not making a profit off of them, but if I rent out enough spaces to pay the rent, then I can make a profit off whatever I sell and hopefully they make a profit off the items they sell too.”
Radecki’s daughter, Valerie Hill, who also works as store manager on the weekends when her mom is out picking, said it’s all about forming a community within the store and within the Tower District.
“This is not just me and mom’s store, this is everyone’s store because when you’re here, you take care of it,” Hill said. “It’s the same for Tower as a whole, we send people to Yoshi’s and other local businesses and they send people over here. It’s all about networking and trying to bring everyone together. We’re a big family.”
Working together, Hill said, each vendor brings something to the table so hopefully each customer finds what they are looking for.
“It’s all about the right person,” Hill said. “This lamp can be the ugliest lamp to somebody or it could be the lamp they’ve been searching for their whole life. It’s either one or the other. It’s not for everybody, but people do like it and enjoy it, especially the 1950s-60s style that is in right now.”