Let’s talk about how you got started- tell me about your career, your transitions, and what specifically led you to start Feast Vintage.
Retail has been in my blood almost my whole life. When I was 15, my first job was at a clothing store. After high school, I began managing retail stores and was working as a district manager in women’s apparel retail in 2013 when I first got the idea to start selling vintage. I had been a die hard thrifter/lover of secondhand goods since I was a kid and would ride my bike to garage sales in our neighborhood on Saturday mornings. I would always find things while out thrifting that were amazing but didn’t fit into my home or my aesthetic. I knew deep down inside someone would love that item or I recognized the value in it and it killed me to leave those kind of finds behind. With my retail background, I thought why not try to sell these things online? So I launched an Etsy shop in July of 2013 called Ballyhoo & Bedbugs ( a nod to my favorite band Echo & The Bunnymen) and sold all sorts of housewares. About a year in, I found myself growing tired of having some shop merchandise clogging up space in my house and realized that the things I never grew tired of and even had a tough time parting with were the items that revolved around cooking, dining & entertaining. I began to hone down my inventory to only specialize in all things tabletop related. It was a solid business decision because I was buying what I truly loved ~ not things I thought other people would think were cool. By 2016 I was starting to think that a shop name that included “Bedbugs” was not ideal for gathering around the table. I wanted a name that evoked gatherings but also abundance and Feast came to mind almost instantly. There is something so special about sharing meals with people we love; and I wanted my shop to inspire people to want to do just that. Make memories around the table.
Who were some of your cheerleaders and mentors that helped push you to begin the FV journey.
My husband supported me from the beginning by encouraging me and helping me wherever he could. In fact, he packed and shipped every order for 6 months during our relocation from New Jersey to Tennessee. I took a job in Nashville in 2015 and was there for 6 months before my husband arrived in TN. The business would have had to shut down during that time if he hadn’t taken over that critical piece for me. My girlfriend Sarah Winchester has been a huge support of my vintage business since day one. She is a professional interiors photographer in New England (with a keen eye and impeccable taste) so her support is not only heart warming but a confidence booster too. Another huge inspiration to me is Chuck Williams the founder of Williams Sonoma. Reading his biography The Merchant of Sonoma was life changing. He did not start that company until his late 30’s and that left such an impression on me.
What is your approach to running your business and how did it come about?
Much of the journey I have sorted out myself by always keeping a student mindset. There is always something to learn, a way to be better and be more efficient. Successful retail is a constant evolution. My background in that field has taught me that it is ALL about the customer. I will always try to do the right thing for the customer because without them, I do not have a business. One important aspect of selling vintage is to be clear and concise communicating condition. We live in a time where new things are mass produced to look vintage but there is a big difference in actually buying something that is 100 years old or something that was made 6 months ago to look like it. It is important for any vintage seller in the online marketplace to ensure their customer knows exactly what they are buying.
Tell me about your process. Everything seems so carefully curated in your shop. How do you select each piece to add to your store?
It is really all about the merchandise! When I see something I know within 5 seconds if I am taking it home with me. If I have to think about it, then I generally walk away. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule but I realized quite a few years ago that if I love it, someone else will too. The more inventory I kept in the shop, the more consistent my business was on a daily basis. Maintaining stock of replacement china and glassware has also been key to regular sales. I specifically list new items in color order to present aesthetically well. I am a visual merchant at heart so it is challenging to have your product only shown online in more of catalog format. I still dream of having a brick & mortar store someday to execute incredible visual merchandising. All of these seemingly small decisions added up and in 2018 enabled me to trade in my crazy corporate career and work for a small family owned business in town. This move has afforded me a whole new quality of life.
What about the FV aesthetic? How did you go about developing this and what do you think it does for your brand?
I find it hard to label the Feast Vintage aesthetic because it is truly just me. I sell things I fall in love with. My studio space and stockroom are here in my home and I decorated the studio just as I decorated the other rooms in this house. I love a gathered style ~ objects that are carefully curated and found over time always make the coziest spaces. I find that same principle works for the tabletop as well.
What part of the FV story does your audience and customer fall in love with?
Answering this question made me realize I don’t often share a lot of the personal side of Feast Vintage! I think people are drawn to the shop for many reasons beyond aesthetics. These items tell stories. Some of those stories may involve childhood memories and times with loved ones that are no longer with us. Some people are replacing items that have been lost over time and they want that nostalgia back. There is nothing more heart warming than getting an email after someone receives their package sharing how that item brought them back to a place in time they will always cherish. It is a powerful thing and one I am honored to be a part of.
What is your favorite part of running FV?
The hunt for new merchandise is definitely the most thrilling part. Being the visual person that I am, I get an idea for how things will present in my head first, so I am inspired when I find a treasure. A simple plate can get my wheels turning and the next thing I know I have a whole table designed around that single item. Seeing those ideas come to fruition is so fulfilling.
Tell us your favorite moment during the ownership of FV.
One of my favorite moments was when a very well known celebrity chef ordered something from the shop and had me ship it to his 3 Michelin Star restaurant in NYC. It was a pinch me moment for sure!
How long has FV been open? How do you feel about your growth since then? What are your short and long-term goals from this point forward?
This month was the 8th birthday of Feast Vintage. I started this business with the original thought that it would be part of my retirement plan; that I would do this to keep busy and bring in additional income. I am at a place where it could become my full time within the next year or two. This summer I hired my first employee. My daughter is now packing and shipping orders to free up my time to bring more of my ideas to fruition. We are also talking about converting our barn into a studio space equipped with a kitchen and stockroom. Everything Feast related would move there and that space would also give me the ability to do pop up shops, farm to table dinners etc. The possibilities are endless!
Your Instagram feed and product listings are so well branded and really tell the FV story. Do any muses come to mind when it comes to your design process?
I am constantly inspired by other creatives and brands that tell stories with compelling imagery and styling. When you keep the posture of a student, I think you are always keenly aware of what others are doing well and then translating what inspires you into your own aesthetic.
Did your business model have to make any shifts during the COVID months?
Last year was unprecedented in every way. Covid impacted the online community because everything was closed and people had no where to shop but online. I think people were searching for distractions. People wanted to be surrounded by pretty things to help them get through such a trying time. While business was on fire, my sources of finding vintage were closed like everything else and that proposed a problem. Fortunately, I have some hoarding tendencies and had ample merchandise on hand to keep up with demand.
How did you adapt to COVID as a business owner and as a person? What will you hold on to after going through those months?
As a business owner, I wanted my customers to feel how appreciative I was of their business during such an unprecedented time. I include a hand written thank you note in every order and just acknowledging what we were all living through really struck a chord with most people. I received so much feedback about those little notes and how much they were appreciated. While we were all at home, we only had social media platforms as a source of connection with the outside world as a whole and it deepened connections on so many levels. It gave us a window into what others were going through and I know for me, it put a lot of things into perspective. It made me count my blessings in a new way.
What was the most positive personal outcome for you as a result of COVID?
Empathy and acknowledgment of what someone else is going through is so important to the human connection. The events of the past year and a half have permanently incorporated both into my life on a whole different level. Nothing is perfect but it is all about the lens through which we view our circumstances that dictate how we will handle them.
Why vintage products? What fuels the passion behind sourcing the product and reselling it to customers?
Vintage items possess something that is unparalleled by mass produced stuff. So many vintage pieces are relevant to and can seamlessly meld into a modern lifestyle. They can be reincarnated as heirlooms for your family. It constantly blows my mind to find a piece of china with a pattern that looks like it could have been made today.
Is there a sustainability factor/mission as part of your business?
The vintage business is ALL about sustainability. Giving new life to no longer wanted and loved things is sustainability at its finest. Our world has such a disposable mindset. People are always looking for the latest and greatest and yet there are amazing things out there that still serve a purpose. Showing how these items can be used definitely fuels my passion.
We (society) are currently in a solid “change the world” state. How do you see yourself, and your business as part of the change?
A must for me is texture on the table in the form of rattan and woven serving pieces. Always. I am also a big fan of mixing and matching patterns to add visual interest. I am always on the look out for items that serve as neutrals; objects that are able to pair with multiple pieces in order to create different looks.
Where are your favorite places to shop for pieces for your home?
My number one places to shop for things for my home will always be antique stores. We have some really fantastic shops here in Franklin, Tennessee. I often find myself traveling to smaller towns seeking out antique stores there. I traveled for my corporate job all over the South and always sought out little shops that were off the beaten track. The best treasures are usually found there. I buy a lot of my vintage clothing from my friend Rebekah @LittleByrdVintage and find beautiful pieces for my home from shops like Saint Signora.