15 Mar FAVORITE FINDS: VINTAGE VARIETIES
By Courtney Loftin
An entrepreneurial spirit and good attitude has carried this wonderous antique establishment.
Instantly upon arriving at Vivian’s Vintage Varieties I am greeted with the generous smile of an energetic woman in gold wired glasses and her dog. There is an intangible sense of welcome. “I’m Vivian,” she says leading the dog away into an enclave created by a few wooden dressers and housewares.
I began to have a look around. In every direction that I turned, among the array of antiques and heirlooms, it is noticeable that each piece is much different than the next. There are consumer goods, like purses and necklaces, but also rare antiques, ceramics, wood carvings, busts, and jewelry that caters to artisan collectors. I sat with Vivian for 2 hours. Well, I sat, she stood. We conversed about life, owning a small business, what the world is like now compared to the one in which she grew up. Vivian was wise and encouraging.
How did you get involved in selling antiques?
It started out when I was younger.My dad would sell fruit from his stand, so I learned from that. I put my tarp out and put toys on it, vegetables from the garden, and I sold. I had never seen a garage sale. I had never heard of one! No one had ever done that. After we [she and her husband] bought a home, I would do a yard sale or two every year. We were on a busy street, so people came by and just bought and bought and bought.
How long have you been in the antique business?
I’ve been in business for 35 years. I started out at Antique America in Davenport and it was an absolutely phenomenal business. Whatever you bought, it sold. There weren’t any malls up and down the interstate, there wasn’t any Facebook, or Craigslist and all those things. I don’t remember a Goodwill at all, nothing like what they have today.
I was in Antique America for 12 years. I worked my way up and became one of the top ten dealers. During that time, I began doing more research. There was a room full of antique books and you could research what you had. There was no Internet then, so you just had to search book by book.
How have you overcome obstacles throughout your years in business?
I learned not to get angry or bitter, but to keep a good attitude.
When did you decide to open Vintage Varieties?
After over a decade of selling in the antique mall, I found a retail space in Moline which I decided to move into. That was my first stand-alone store. It was a divine decision. I had no idea about it then, but two months later Antique America closed! I stayed at my first store for ten years successfully, and I closed it to take care of my husband when he became ill. It was in the years following that I began doing the bigger antique shows.
What was your experience like going to larger antique shows?
I frequently went to the largest antique show in Florida where they have antiques from all around the world. They had three seminars at the show in Florida, and guess who was at the seminars? Me. There, I learned. I learned by seeing and handling and looking. It’s different when you see it, it gave me a wide knowledge of all different kinds of antiques.
How do you keep the stamina going?
I’m high energy. You know why? Because I’m always doing it. If you sit down, you don’t get back up. You’ve got to keep moving. You learn, and you learn, and you learn, and then finally you realize you don’t know anything because there’s so much to know. The more you know the more there is to know, which makes it very interesting.
What else are you working on?
I have gone into interior decorating. I’ve decorated some of the lofts downtown.
Any advice for the rising generations?
Don’t tell me you don’t have any money. It’s that you don’t know what to do with your money. You can have anything you want. My husband was a pastor and we lived on a very limited salary, no retirement, none. We made no money, but I lived by faith. Anybody that comes in is going to hear about the Lord from me.
Vintage Varieties has many treasures, the best of all being Vivian herself. Thirty-five years of small business ownership is a feat to aspire to. Vivian reminds us that most of all you must have passion for your work. “I love what I’m doing. Sometimes I tell people when they buy something they’re taking a piece of my heart with them.”
1808 3rd Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201