Our family has always been pack rats. We never throw anything away. My dad laughed when his grandfather gave him ten years of back records to a business he sold in the 1970s. Dad got half a truck load of boxes in 2005.
My brother and I played with the same stuffed animals my dad played with as a kid. One year out of college my brother has a library filled with books, pictures, old maps, and a mini fur rug that would make any passing observer impressed. It’s a nice little library in a cheap one bedroom apartment.
My college dorm room had enough stuff to fit into an apartment. Four couches, lofted beds, an entire closet with every square inch filled with books, extra box fans and cardboard cut outs of Jim Carey stuffed in the ceiling tiles above. I still have every undergraduate paper I’ve ever wrote.
So it made sense to me that Mom and Dad would love going to auctions and estate sales. It also didn’t surprise me that they really got into antiques. We all love old stuff. Jon loves old maps & history books, I’m an amateur book scout, Mom and Dad specialize in glass, but love all antiques.
They started on eBay. After the basement, attic, summer kitchen, sheds, garage, and house were stuffed with boxes and glassware, it was time to start a business. They weren’t ready to buy a building, and worried whether an antique store could survive in a small town.
So I helped them set up on eBay. They figured out how online commerce worked, how online auctions worked, and how to build a reputation and pay attention to how the antique market shifted by season. They became very good, and when it was obvious that there wasn’t a single space left anywhere on the property, it was time for a building, if for no other reason than to have a place to store all the antiques.
Many small towns are desperately trying to attract business and income, dying off because of the new economies of giant city stores. The town of Belle Plaine, Iowa, is undertaking drastic measures to try and turn a run down half empty Main Street back into the prosperous place it was just 20 years ago.
One of the first things the city really wanted an antique store, and when cheap buildings came available on Main Street and they knew the town was serious about revitalizing (my brother was hired into a full time position to help make sure this happens), they bought a building with a very smart sales plan: All anticipated business would be online. Just going from dial up to broadband Internet in town would boost business, and they would assume that all income had to be online…and if anyone walked in to buy something, that would be bonus. This way they don’t have to depend on just 2,500 people in a small town for business, but they can do sales internationally.
They are doing great, and I hope this helps even more. The businesses doing well in town are ones that take advantage of online sales. This is the new model to revitalize small towns, and shows how antiques and computers can go hand in hand.