Charles and I actually began our antique store Attic Treasures Antiques in Madison (Morgan County) during the summer of 1988.
Our house got VERY FULL because, (A) we’re both packrats and, (B) we enjoyed searching for interesting and unusual things and, (C) we had youngsters in the family who welcomed assistance with furnishing their new apartments – but who moved back home (more than once) and brought it all with them. (Did I mention the fact that the utility room was jammed? The garage?)
I got tired of there only being room for beams from vehicle headlights in the garage, so initially rented half a 9 x 12 space in the old Madison Antique Mall to sell off some of the overflow. The intersection of US 441 and I-20 was a terrific location for a new venture! We actually didn’t intend to keep on selling once we had our house contents under control, but found we enjoyed passing on items we’d located, and continuing to look for more. Better yet, we seemed to have a knack for it. In those first years we traveled a lot on business, and everywhere we went, in our spare time we visited antique stores, flea markets, and malls looking for things to add to our booth.
Three years after our initial commercial leap, we had expanded to nine full 9 x 12 booths in the old Madison Antique Mall. It became obvious it had become more than a hobby for us, so we later decide to launch our own antique store – Attic Treasures Antiques – and moved into a storefront on Main Street and stayed there for 19 years before moving to our present Watkinsville location. We named our shop Attic Treasures because our initial inventory did seem to be mostly attic contents. As we upgraded our inventory, we acquired and sold better quality furniture and jewelry, but we liked the name well enough to continue with it when we moved to Oconee County.
The favorite thing about our antique store business?
Learning. It’s literally ‘learning in retirement’ for us. We both had jobs in education (among other things) during our active working lives, but this is more relaxing than our careers. We learn something from every person who comes through the store and we both enjoy meeting new people, finding out their interests and helping them if we can. I became a licensed personal property appraiser so I could offer certified personal property appraisals (which are legal documents). I also enjoy having people bring things in for me to tell them informally what I can. Being older than dirt actually comes in handy because you can remember seeing some items in context. Other things might stump you, but you can always figure out something about an item because of its construction method, style, color, materials used or something similar about it.
The most challenging thing about running Attic Treasures Antiques?
Luckily with old things, it’s necessary only to find items for resale which strike the nostalgia chord within us all rather than keeping up with what’s trendy and ‘in’. During these tough economic years, it’s been harder finding things which people can justify buying, because there’s not a single item in our antique store which is a ‘necessity’. EVERYTHING in our inventory is optional, and most people are being very cautious right now about asset allocation. Though business isn’t what it was in our peak years, we still have good sales, and have a long list of ‘find this for me please’ items when we go shopping. I’m currently looking for several jewelry items for customers, and my husband also has a list of things to seek when we shop.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a new business in Oconee County?
I think it would be wise to have sufficient funding on hand to pay at least a year’s expenses before opening a new business similar to ours. Advertising is essential to let people know who you are, where you are and what you carry. Thirdly, it’s important to be OPEN. Not necessarily 7 days a week like us, but consistently, with well-posted opening hours and on days (and at times) people can shop. I wish Watkinsville had at least 5-6 antique stores, as no two stores are alike, and if there are a variety of shops, visitors are more likely to find something they like well enough to take home with them. Existing stores actually help newly open ones and vice versa. When we first opened in Madison, there was one existing antique shop in town. By the time we left to move here, Madison had become an antique center.
I hope Watkinsville will do the same.