death of departments

It was midnight on Tuesday when I opened this box. I sighed, took a picture of its contents and turned off the lights. I “couldn’t even”.

This box of stuff perfectly represents the merchandising chaos that is behind the scenes at a vintage store. Nothing is ever the same. Nothing. There’s no static inventory process and there’s not enough room to have an entire section devoted to vintage socks and pantyhose. I have to pile it up wherever I can. Few people have seen the basement at Encore but trust me when I say that I’ve got a little of everything…which reminds me of the time I thought I could make departments…

Gather ‘round, folks! I’m going to tell you a story you probably won’t read.

I get asked the same questions, multiple times a week, which are,

“How’d you get into this?”, “Where’d you get all this stuff?”, “Why are there so many empty bottles of gin in the trash?”, “Have you been crying?”

When I answer the first question, I make them as uncomfortable as possible by explaining how I was a stay-at-home mom, trying to fill the dark void of monotony with pretty dresses, shoes, and jewelry. I finally realized that it wasn’t normal to buy four houndstooth ponchos in one calendar year and ultimately forced myself to stop chasing the dragon.

It wasn’t long before I discover auctions and estate sales. 3 years later, I had a house and 3 large storage units, filled with stuff. I would sell the stuff I didn’t want to pay for the stuff I did.

Profits started happening.

I wanted to be the Sam Walton of resale. I wanted a huge, brightly lit store, filled with used, everyday things people need but…

Do you know how hard it is to find a large retail space in JCMO?

EXHIBIT A: 

This is my email exchange with a local realtor about the old Hastings property.

Based on her terse response, she already knew what I’d soon discover – I’m not a Walton, I’m just Annie. You have to have deep pockets and I barely even have pockets. They’re like the pockets on the back of dress slacks that are sewed shut. You’re lucky to fit your lipgloss in one of those.

So I inquired about the old SuperD space, which also went over like a lead balloon because the property manager didn’t want my “type of business” there.

I’ll get to the point – Thanks to the fine Jefferson City Chamber folks, I discovered 330 Capitol Avenue. This store is, literally, half the size of what we’d written into the business plan. There are even faux walls built in here, blocking off blank space, just so we’d stay under 5,000 sq. feet, as to avoid the costly requirement of retrofitting a sprinkler system.

My idea of putting items in “departments” fell on its face and died. I was forced to adapt to the downtown vintage store vibe instead of becoming the eccentric resale magnate of mid-mo and, instead of having an actual staff, it’s just me and my dog most days.

I finally accept that those property managers were right about Encore not being a good fit for their space. This fun and delightfully weird store would have wilted like a flower under the soul-crushing weight of strip mall banality. Encore was always destined to be a downtown vintage store – like a boutique but cheaper, messier and wildly immature. I like to see people talk, laugh and sit on the furniture here. I like to see them try on hats and hear them wax poetic about a similar lamp they had in the 70s. They can escape here..

Don’t know what happens after this. In the short term, I hope everyone considers buying their Christmas gifts at Encore because, while I’m stocked up on houndstooth ponchos, I could really use a vacation and a part-time employee. Also, a new BMW. The one I have is older than most of my customers and recently started smoking and sputtering like my drunk uncle on Thanksgiving.