Kate Devine

[Fiction]  How to Open a Vintage Shop

Start young, on a road trip with your mother, at a barn sale in the Catskill Mountains, Upstate New York. Together, browse dusty oil paintings, wrought iron fixtures, and faded ceramics. Sense stories, years, and miles embedded in objects. Inhale the scent of hay and wood.


Lock eyes with an antique dress mannequin. Ask your mother to buy it. It will stand in the bedroom you and your sister share, frightening her in the dark for years.


In high school, volunteer at a local thrift shop every Sunday. Feel privileged to have an exclusive first look at donations. Buy a tweed overnight bag before it hits the floor. It is not practical, it is orange and brown.


Stroll through the Brooklyn Flea one autumn morning, your freshman year of college. Swoon over racks of curated vintage; buy an antique watch. Drink a green juice and eat an artisan muffin. Decide there is absolutely no better way to spend a Saturday.


Over the years, notice a pattern. All of your sweaters are thrifted. You prefer furniture with character, even if a bit wobbly. The props that embellish your life are pieced together, a storied mosaic. Everything has had a previous owner, from your car to your flower pots. Your mother moans when opening your closet. Gasp at her suggestion to throw anything away.


Convince a friend to join you selling vintage at a very local flea market. Name your partnership “Flea Gals.” Your mother visits. You sense her discomfort. She hates seeing you among peddlers of oddities. There is a man selling porn VHS tapes a few tables down.


Get laid off from the fulltime job that drains you. You spent hours in that office making lists of dreams. “Write a book, write a blog, write a list, open an online store, open a store, work in an office with a window…”


The next day, in your rented home by the sea, take inventory of your closet. Research the value of Ferragamo pumps, a silk Ungaro blouse. From the front porch, build the online store, with your body draped sideways over a faded green leather armchair. Name your shop “Moonmind Vintage,” after the first few words of a poem.


Your mother asks, “are you really trying to sell Aunt Mar’s old boots online?” They aren’t Aunt Mar’s old boots. Take her condescension lightly. She turned you on to this madness.


Become a regular at flea markets and estate sales. Bargain like you know what you’re doing until you do.


Befriend an idealistic crowd of creatives. Barter a sheer, lace gown for a ceramics lesson. Pop up at an artisan market downtown. Merchandise clothes on racks, place a mauve cocktail dress on the antique mannequin. Sell the tweed overnight bag, then the dress, do not sell the mannequin.


One day, your mother asks to borrow a beach bag. You know the one she wants, handmade of raffia and rope. Found at a thrift shop in Vermont, it is ideal for carrying beach towels, sunscreen, a magazine. It is part of your inventory, but looks perfect hanging from her shoulder, against her cover-up, beneath her sunhat. Never ask for it back.


Kate Devine grew up on the shores of New Jersey. She received an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work also appears in POND Magazine. She is currently living, hiking, and writing near open windows in the Hudson Valley.


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