My ‘Little’ Antiques Mall Celebrates A Milestone


Twelve years ago, I decided to open an antiques mall. My plan was to learn the business and become well-established before every Baby Boomer in the nation retired to Florida. I also considered opening a bait shop. I figured either one would do well, but antiques won out because they’re less squishy.

So I started looking around and, surprisingly quickly, located a 90-year-old building in a historic town that I could purchase for $102,500. There were a few negatives — the building was a former funeral home, and the town it sat in was pretty dilapidated. Plus, the town know-it-all took the time to shake his finger in my face and yell, “Antiques are dead here!”

But I put together a business plan and charged ahead.

A business plan is basically a document in which you ask yourself the hard questions and then do enough research to provide the most probable answers. For instance: Where will my customers (if any) come from? How will I make enough money to pay the clerks? And, how am I going to manage a business in Palatka when I live in Wellington?

Banks love well-done business plans (read: lots of numbers) because it shows that you’re taking this thing seriously, not just looking for a license to shop. My research also uncovered the startling fact that, back then, something like 60 percent of women who opened shops purchased their inventory on a credit card. What? Had they not heard the phrase “ridiculously high interest rates?” I vowed to pay cash for everything.

Once I got a bank to lend me enough money to buy the 3,000-square-foot building with which I was in love, it was time to fill it up. I took all the antiques I had accumulated with my cash thus far and filled up exactly 300 square feet. But that was OK. According to my business plan, I was going to rent the rest of the space to other antiquers.

But what if no one cared? What if, as I had been warned, antiques really were dead in that town?

They weren’t. And once I took over my beautiful building (made even more beautiful thanks to the advice of interior designer Kathy Foster and my talented builder husband Mark), the other five antique shops in town closed their doors in order to rent space at my place.

We had bought the building in late August, rehabbed it over the next four weekends (still working our day jobs, four hours away) and officially opened Oct. 1. My wonderful store manager opened the doors at 105 percent capacity — renting a small closet to the last determined dealer.

Like I said, that was 12 years ago. Today, I have thousands of shoppers in my database, the best clerking crew I’ve ever had, and I love the place more than ever.

Unfortunately, because I’m still holding down a day job, I’m never there. But someday I will be — just as soon as I retire to Florida.