Vintage Vignette - Sept/Oct 2018
After writing countless stories about shops, it was high time to try my own hand at retail. They say that eating out doesn't qualify you open a restaurant, so I may be misguided, but The Captain and Pearl has been open for two months in the French Potager and so far we've cleared our rent within the first week of both.
Here are some tips we've kept in mind while opening and maintaining our little corner on Main Street. We'd love to hear what you look for when shopping in Old Town Bay St. Louis. You can leave your comments on our Instagram at @thecaptainandpearl.
Find your niche
My collecting started out with Pez dispensers. From there it was anything with a mushroom on it – which was a lot of vintage kitchen wear. That mushroomed in to barware and ashtrays.
When I had a baby, all that was packed up and stuffed animals (especially flamingos) found their place in my life. Stepping back, I saw I had a nice mix of mommy and baby items that needed new homes and The Captain and Pearl was born in the French Potager.
“Booths are an extension of the dealer’s personalities,” said French Potager owner Martha Whitney Butler. “My booth has stuff from all over the world because I love to travel. Everybody’s different.”
Mix Old and New
Some of the best booths I’ve seen in town have a blend of antiques and almost-new items. A newly embroidered pillow gives an old chair a pop of life. Stick new magnets on an old piece of tin. At Captain and Pearl, we display new items (like our BSL Shirts that benefit Ruth’s Roots community garden) in vintage luggage.
Tell a Story
But what does that mean? In the antiques business, they’ve lived and died by this rule for generations. A pocket watch is just a pocket watch. A pocket watch owned by a famous general and worn in the Civil War - now that’s something special. You place items in a certain time and place in history, and suddenly they take on a whole new meaning.
And it doesn’t have to be a hundred year old story to make it appealing. We put out some pretty cool handmade toys from Mexico, which didn’t move. We decided to give each one a name and write “Handmade in Mexico” on the tag and it gave them a new level of personality and interest.
Refresh All the Time
It’s helpful to see what people bought, but you can also see what they are picking up. Even if you don’t add or edit new inventory every day, just shuffling things around gives the booth a breath of fresh air, which keeps shoppers coming back.
Get into Your Customers Heads (and Homes)
Keep in mind, lots of folks on the hunt for antiques like to dig. Have a section in your booth that lets them do just that, but don’t have so many items that people will get overwhelmed. Some people feel most comfortable shopping in retail stores so take cues from your favorite shops on the best way to display your items. Most importantly, help your clients visualize your items in their own homes.