February sales report

WeBooth Feb 2017 | Hazel & Verdie's were both pretty surprised at our February results in the booth: it was a short month with only 28 days and it turned out to be our best-ever month, with gross sales at 3-1/2 times our rent!

We are beyond thrilled with this result. We even surpassed last December’s sales!

We both feel that the switch to furniture has been the key. We seem to have found a nice little niche selling project pieces to the painters and restylers out there, and we do manage to get some “steals” at great prices so we can make some great bargain deals.

We also know our mall managers do a lot of outreach on social media, and in February they promoted the opening of a “general store” featuring Iowa gifts within the mall. All of this plus the unseasonably mild weather all month long brought in the shoppers, along with our own efforts to drive traffic to our booth via social media and other tools.

We’re now in the process of putting in items for Spring, so that means garden junk, a fresh batch of vintage architectural salvage, and light/bright colored smalls. We’re also removing a bunch of smalls that have been there awhile.

New for Spring 2017 | Hazel & Verdie's

And with our February paycheck, we’ll of course be heading out on a picking spree for more great vintage furniture!

Furniture flip round-up

We are just finishing up another strong month in the booth. It was a month in which we sold 12 pieces of furniture. We have a very loose pricing formula but it doesn’t always pan out – whether we get our asking price depends of course on what we paid for a piece, because that directly affects the asking price. Pay too much, and we have to ask too much… and one thing we’ve learned particularly in the last couple of months is that it’s easy to pay too much. “All the money,” as they say. That said, overall we’ve done well and of course are still learning what pieces will sell and which styles or types have run their course in the market. So, I thought I would just share a few of the pieces that have sold most recently.

This gate leg table had already been painted, but apparently the owner just didn’t love it. We acquired it for a great price and sold it to another painter.

Gate leg table | Hazel & Verdie's
This great dresser had a broken drawer when we bought it, so we got a good deal. We fixed the drawer, and a young couple bought it to turn it into a changing table for their baby-on-the-way.

Three drawer dresser | Hazel & Verdie's

The young man who sold us this gray dresser said that his grandfather had built it, along with a small side table that we also purchased. I love this piece because the design with the six narrow drawers is so unique. We bought it for a great price so we could sell it for a great price, and it didn’t last more than a couple days in the booth. (Fun side note: I was too short to see into the top drawer. LOL)

Gray dresser | Hazel & Verdie's
This dresser was a piece we found on a trip to Omaha back in January. I have never seen another one like it. The arched top is really different, as are the vertical drawer pulls. To me, the piece had a “Beauty and the Beast” vibe. I could imagine it being restyled as a child’s dress-up armoire.

Arch top dresser | Hazel & Verdie's


We tried a number of price points on this ornate gentleman’s dresser, and finally hit the right one that still gave us a bit of margin on it and made the buyer very happy. “You don’t know how long I’ve been stalking this piece in your booth,” she told me! She’s a very talented painter – I can’t wait to see how it comes out!

Gentleman's Dresser | Hazel & Verdie's

We’re in the process of filling the booth now with some items appropriate for Spring… a couple of wooden outdoor benches, some trellis sections… stuff like that… and in addition to the pieces above we also sold several smaller furniture pieces such as side tables and wooden chairs. But we are still going full steam ahead with furniture and will be taking another road trip soon. Hoping for another strong month in March!


Advantages of having a booth instead of a shop

If you are like me and have day-dreamed for years about having your own vintage or second-hand retail shop, you might find the thought of having “just a booth” to be a bit of a let-down. But there are a number of advantages of having “just a booth” and it all has to do with the ability to test the waters without risking your primary means of financial support. Meaning, having a booth is a way to discover whether the vintage and antique business is something you love , or just a passing fancy, without starving to death as you learn.

Here are the primary advantages that I see in operating a booth, whether or not you ever decide to open an independent shop.

Just a booth | Hazel & Verdie's

It’s less financial obligation. With a booth in the mall I’m currently in, I owe three things: rent, sales commission, and credit/debit card fees. That’s it. The mall owners are responsible for all utilities, sales tax, staff wages and benefits, marketing, building maintenance, and all other expenses. My booth rent, rounded, is $250 per month. If I had a shop, my rent would be three to four times that amount (or more), and I would be responsible for all the other expenses as well.

In the right kind of mall, you don’t have to be there to make sales. While it’s true that in some malls, the dealer is required to make their own sales within their individual booth, I’m in a mall that provides the staff. The booth rent is higher, but it works for me (and many others) because I simply could not put in the same number of hours as mall staff.

You don’t have to hassle with taxes. Because the mall I’m in has one primary sales counter that they staff with their own employees, they collect and submit all sales taxes. They also handle all payroll taxes and other taxes. This is huge for me because in general, I hate taxes and more specifically, I’m a terrible bookkeeper.

If I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have to lift a finger to help drive traffic to my booth – a good mall handles advertising and marketing on behalf of their dealers. Fact is, though, I do a lot of things to help drive traffic both to my booth and to the store in general, for the sake of my own sales and for everyone in the mall.

It’s frequently said that the only ones who make money in an antique mall are the mall owners. After all, if their spaces are rented, they are guaranteed a minimum amount of income each month with rent, sales commissions and fixed fees. For some dealers, the perception is that they  “give away” to the mall owners everything they sell right up until the moment when all rent and fees are paid for the month.

But the fact remains, operating costs are a lot less with a booth than they are with owning a stand-alone shop. The convenience of having a shop without having the responsibility of a whole shop is worth a lot. And the opportunity to learn the business – to learn what sells (and what doesn’t), how to market, how to price, how to stage and display, where and how to acquire inventory… all without risking your life savings and your ability to sleep at night… is really priceless.

None of this is to say that I won’t someday still have a stand-alone shop. But I consider myself to be still in the experimental phase right now, and this approach is perfect for now.



Farmhouse step-back cabinet built with love

My sweet boyfriend Greg (if you are 54 years old do you still get to use the word “boyfriend”?)  spent many hours recently, building me a piece of furniture that I had been hoping to find at auction for a long time, but just could never get my hands on. It is a primitive-style farmhouse step-back cabinet: two-door enclosed base, with a three-shelf open hutch on top.

Greg hasn’t really built any furniture before, but because we had started to do some small refinishing projects for our booth pieces, we had acquired a radial arm saw and then a table saw. So one day he went to the garage and started building a couple of miniature “barn gates” made of cedar. When he first showed them to me, we talked about aging them and styling as decorative wall pieces to be sold in our antique booth. Then he started talking about maybe building a cabinet around them, and at that point I showed him the inspiration photo below for what I thought it could become.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's
Photo found via Google Images

And so, without any plans and just working out of his head with his background in large-scale construction (and NOT – as he likes to claim – in finely detailed finishing work)… he built this:

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's


I mean, it’s perfect. So perfect I want to cry. It’s exactly what I was looking for, only better because it’s handmade. The cabinet stands about six feet tall and four feet wide. It’s made primarily out of rough-cut cedar fence pickets and pine two-by’s. The beautiful, naturally aged top on the base is reclaimed barn board.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

The hutch is made of more cedar pickets, pine one- and two-by’s, and pine shelving.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

In finishing, we experimented with a wood-staining technique where you first paint the wood with black tea, and then vinegar steeped with steel wool to draw out an aged, silvery color. However, for reasons unknown, on this project the aged color was decidedly reddish/brownish/rustish. Here it is part-way through the staining process.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

Although it didn’t turn to the silvery color I was anticipating, it allowed me to paint the entire piece white with a dark, aged appearance underneath so that if I chose to manually distress it, the “aged” wood would show through.

Once the aging step was completed, I painted the entire thing in Glidden Premium interior paint in Nano White. It took an entire gallon, two coats overall and in some places, three. I left the barnwood unpainted. Greg then attached the top to the base and we moved the whole thing into place.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

I admit, I stayed up until about 3 a.m. fussing and styling with some of my favorite cottage pieces, many of which have been in hiding just waiting for this very piece of furniture.

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

I can’t even begin to express how impressed and touched I am that this is what he chose to build, and that he seems to love it as much as I do. I’m pretty impressed with him, and I hope he is too!

step-back cabinet | Hazel and Verdie's

More soon,


How we launched an email newsletter

Last year when we made the decision to refocus our inventory on vintage furniture, we wanted to become a go-to source for those in our area who paint and restyle those pieces. We’ve had some good feedback from this group on the mix of pieces in our booth, and we also sell some pieces online through the various buy and sell apps. We’ve had buyers say things like, “I’ll be looking for you on Letgo,” understanding that it might be kind of hit or miss for someone hoping to find our pieces.

Newsletter banner | Hazel & VerdieSo with that in mind, we decided to venture into e-mail marketing, and launch a newsletter for our painter friends to keep them informed about new items in our inventory. I want them to know about what’s in our booth, but also about what we have waiting to go in to the booth. (Because if we can sell a dresser without having to actually move it into the booth? Win-win!)

I started with a trip up to The Picker Knows, where I collected business cards from the booths of anyone selling painted furniture. I also looked up a few folks whose pages I’ve liked on Facebook, and a few buyers I had connected with on the buy-sell apps.
I compiled all the email addresses from these sources, contacted them individually to introduce (or re-introduce) myself and my newsletter concept, and asked if they would like to be included on my list of recipients. Out of 16 invitations, only two have not yet responded, and all others requested to be added to the list.

For the first issue, I made a list of the pieces I thought would be of most interest to painters, took some pictures of those pieces, and compiled their “quick stats” – price, condition, and how to purchase.

newsletter content | Hazel & VerdieI won’t go into a whole how-to on using the email software (I chose Constant Contact, which I love), but suffice to say it’s simple enough because it’s template-based, and I had no trouble compiling and sending my first issue. The software also tracks how many (and which) people opened the email and/or clicked on any of its links, and offers them an automated way to unsubscribe if they wish. (You can do a 60-day free trial with Constant Contact, then purchase a subscription after that. If you choose to do so, please email me first and I’ll send you an invite. If you end up subscribing to it, we’ll both get a $30 credit!)

Our first issue went out a few days ago, and we’ve sold one of the listed pieces. I haven’t figured out yet if it sold to a newsletter recipient, I plan to continue with the newsletter for awhile and hope to also grow the subscriber list. If you are local to the Des Moines, Iowa area and would like to be notified about our paintable inventory, please send me an email and I’ll add you to the list!