We are a Mother-Daughter team who have found that working together and combining our talents and creativity is a winning combination. We are so lucky to have an opportunity to spend time together building a business that feeds our individual but complimentary needs and provides beautiful products and services for our community.
It didn’t happen overnight.
The seed has been hibernating inside for decades starting long ago when I was not known as “Mom” but was myself a daughter of a very creative and giving woman. She taught me to be generous, be considerate, waste nothing, and always do something special for someone else.
I used to be so embarrassed going to the grocery store or anywhere in town with my mother because she knew everyone. We would stop and talk to people she knew from the variety of volunteer organizations or community groups she was involved in. Our quick shopping excursions would last for hours but it was amazing to watch her. She made the people feel like they were the most special person in the world. While as a child and then teenager, I couldn't understand the skill behind her active listening or the power it gave her, I knew she was well liked and I wanted to be like that.
On many of these outings, my mom would take me in boutiques and shops. She would show me things that she would love to buy to decorate our home but couldn't afford. We would dissect the desired item and craft a way to recreate it. The next day I would come home from school to a pile of stuff mom had collected from the house, the yard, the trash, or a second hand store and she would ask me to make her the item we had not been able to afford. I learned to make wreaths, floral arrangements, paint furniture, make holiday ornaments, paint ceramics, bead jewelry, and a ton of other crafts.
Soon we were making crafts for our family and friends for gifts and I reveled in the praise. I loved finding some of those early on gifts at my grandmothers house after she passed away. She had lovingly hung them around her home. Though the were rudimentary and obviously the work of a child, these gifts meant something to my grandmother.
I found myself in adulthood not able to shake the desire to please people with a little handmade something or other. I tried baking but found that was not my calling. I could sew and jewelry making came easily to me. It was in my early 20’s that I caught a real bug for antiquing. I remember my first auction. I went by myself and only bid on and won one item, a set of iron candlesticks that cost me $10. After a coat of paint, a few lamp kits from the hardware store and some second hand lamp shades, I sold the pair for $65. Upcycling was my new obsession although that term wouldn't be used for a few decades.
My daughters grew up watching me dig in dumpsters, take items from people’s curbs, and shop mostly in second hand stores. I decorated their rooms with spray painted iron plant stands for a bedside table, repainted wicker headboards, handsewn curtains made from old sheets and even a suede skirt turned into a pillow. I would drag them shopping with me and we would watch new shows on tv like “Trading Spaces” and get inspired on how to spruce up our home. I started to amass a collection of vintage finds and my garage became my workshop and storage facility.
My daughters turned into teenagers and then young adults and while we bonded over trips to flea markets, dusty and dark antique shops, and second hand stores, they still saw this as “Mom’s thing”. It wasn’t until they had homes of their own that decorating really began to interest them although they both always had fabulous style. I love to tell the story that my daughter Leah went to cosmetology school just so she could learn to do her own hair and it worked because she always looks fabulous.
Something must have sunk in to both my daughters all those years because they are both very creative in their individual ways. When I was invited to my daughter Blair’s first apartment, I was overwhelmed with pride at how masterfully she had taken bits and pieces, odds and end furniture, old linens, a few trinkets from my house, her grandmothers, and some second hand shops and blended them together so balanced and artfully to create an interior space worthy of the cover of “House Beautiful” or any other magazine celebrating the talents of the best interior designers. Who knew she had that in her? I was amazed. She shrugged off the praise because to her she was just trying to make it feel like home. Blair’s eye has continued to develop and now she is our chief designer. She makes our store sing and her own home is a comfortable and warm sanctuary.
After Leah graduated from cosmetology school, she decided to forgo that career and began working at a local casino. She grew in her roles there and gained some very valuable insights into customer service and marketing. As a member of the promotions team, it was her job to bring in the customers and engage them to improve their experience. At the same time, she was learning the power of social media and how to use those tools to interact with potential customers. Always an avid photographer, Leah has combined these creative skills to become the mastermind behind our social media feeds that bring in more and more followers every day. Her own sense of style is inspiring and helps diversify our store as she sees beauty in different items than her sister or I. Leah also makes macrame and has a small business called “Moth to Flame” that produces and sells in our shop handcrafted cement candles and planters. Like me, she can make anything. She can watch a Youtube video a few times and recreate even the most difficult creation. She and I share information on Pinterest on things that inspire us. While her talents are many, her time is limited. Between a full time job, a six year old daughter and husband, the social media for the store and her other responsibilities, she doesn't have much time to create. Like my mother, she loves passing her ideas on to me.
In 2017, after a trip to the world famous Brimfield Antique Fair, the real planning for a business began. At the fair that boasts more than 5,000 antique vendors from all over the country, we found inspiration in the dirt and mud. It was cold and damp and we were mingling with so many others who were looking for the same treasures as us (Brimfield is known to attract over 50,000 visitors a year). We each found so many eclectic items. It was common to hear, “What could we do with this?” which translated really means, “Mom, what can you make from this?” Although my talented daughters are as inspired as I am, I continue to be the main crafter.
Once we brought home our treasures from Brimfield, Blair, Leah, and I with the support of the men in our lives drafted a business plan for a small specialty gift shop. We envisioned a community shop where we could feature local artists and natural and sustainable products which we would mingle with our vintage finds and upcycled creations. The Vintage Pantry seemed like the right name to describe this mix of products.
We opened our doors in October 2017 on Marsh Road in Wilmington, my local neighborhood. Today, we have over 1000 square feet of space where Blair artfully displays our mix of handmade and vintage items. We have the work of more than a dozen local artists for sale in our shop at very reasonable prices. I have to stop myself from buying everything for myself!
Our store has been recognized by the editors and readers of Delaware Today magazine. In 2018, we won “Best New Home Store”. We have been spotlighted as one of the must go to stops for holiday gifts, and we celebrated for our work with local artists. We’ve been called “a small but mighty shop” and our customers have referred to us as a gem in the community.
Its a gift to be able to work with the people I love most in the world but to have been able to create something that has touched the community and inspired others is more than we expected. We are so proud of our little Vintage Pantry Co.
If you haven't been in in awhile or never experienced us, please stop in. I want to get to know you and help you find something special for a gift and maybe a little something for yourself!