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There’s a certain amount of risk that comes with diving into a new venture, no matter how excited you are about it. Peter and Scarlett, the duo behind Adverts Vintage, know this firsthand. Just over two years ago, they left the security of steady employment to dive into the vintage furniture industry. The risk was not without reward, and today they are the proud owners of a beautiful brick and mortar shop in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Upon entering the narrow space, you’re immediately surrounded by warm wood, high-polish finishes, and the clean lines of mid-century modern design. Welcoming and warm, Peter and Scarlett were happy to talk shop and divulge what they’ve learned along the way!
Q: How did you get started in the furniture business?
Peter: I’ve always loved old stuff. Even as a kid, I was into old things, sports teams of the past, vintage clothing, old movies. I think I really fell in love with vintage furniture when I was watching a lot of movies from the ‘30s. It was all the art deco stuff. After 25 years of 9 to 5, I was ready to do something I was passionate about.
Scarlett: We started with selling items online, mostly on Ebay. We kept all our furniture in a storage facility. We actually worked out of our storage unit—we would even clean furniture there. We were really lucky that the facility manager let us do all that. It took about a year before the business was pretty solid.
Q: How do you select your items?
S: For the most part, we buy stuff that we really like. Things we could live with in our own home, pieces that are functional. We stick to furniture, lamps, and the occasional art piece.
P: We make sure the piece is in good condition. Occasionally we’ll refinish a piece or reupholster, but in general, we like to buy pieces that just need to be cleaned up. And of course, you have to make sure you’ll be able to sell it for more than you bought it for.
Q: What was your best vintage find ever?
S: You know, something you learn right away is that you can’t look back once you’ve sold something. Awhile back we found these cool, stylized cast iron dogs. They were rusty, unmarked, and labeled as bull-fighting stands. We couldn’t find any other info on them. We got them for $50 and sold them for $300, somewhat reluctantly, because I kind of wanted to keep them. Then, of course, a few months later we saw them in an auction and it turned out they were very rare andirons by Russel Wright. They sold for $7,500.
Q: What recommendations would you give to someone who wants to start their own vintage business?
S: Do your research. You need to know what you’re buying. And don’t give up. You just keep looking—estate sales, auctions, thrift stores—you never know when you’ll find something. And make sure you keep your costs down. Don’t spend so much on a piece that it doesn’t pencil out. Just keep it up and you’ll learn along the way.
P: Also, be nice to people. Some dealers are competitive, but you know, you see the same people at auctions and sales all the time. It’s a small world and everyone has their little niche. Also, it’s important to be upfront about what you’re selling. If you’re not providing full disclosure on a piece, that’s just going to hurt you in the end.
Q: What were the challenges of moving to a brick & mortar, as opposed to selling online?
P: Well, the overhead for one. But it’s nice to have the space. We can clean everything here and then actually display it. And, while we’re only officially open on the weekends from 12-5, we do get quite a bit of foot traffic.
Q: What do you love in the neighborhood?
S: There are so many great places around here to eat. We like Lavender Lake, Henry Public, Provence en Boite for their baguettes and croissants. For vintage, Jarontiques is great. They sell mid-century modern mostly and sometimes we’ll refer someone to them if we don’t have what they’re looking for. I like Holler & Squall as well. It’s this eclectic mix of vintage and industrial. They have a great eye.
P: We’ve lived here in the neighborhood for 7 ½ years or so. It’s pretty amazing how much it’s changed. I mean, when I was growing up, no one went to Brooklyn. No one. It was like, why would you go there?