Salvage business tips

Brooklyn Muse

As an antique store owner, I have learned the importance of discovery, appreciation, and the intrinsic history of simple elements. The connections one can make with artifacts of the past can bring exciting new energy to space and soul. The art of salvage collection and distribution is an arduous process and the following ten elements are sure to bring positive results.
Sixties posters© Brooklyn Muse

1. Location

Whether you choose an online shop, brick and mortar space, or co-op- location is the key. Yes, even your online shop has to be placed in an area of traffic. A storefront down an old cobblestone street is cool, but a look at the foot traffic during various times of the day is important. Vehicle traffic is lovely, but people browsing around will assist your efforts much more than autos racing by. Location in online placement and vast internet advertising gives your store a voice. Compare rental prices and leases in an area you feel comfortable opening a business. Does it have many other businesses with the same type of funky vibe you are looking for? Will your store “stand out” from the majority of others? In an elegant neighborhood, you might find yourself being the diamond in the rough. The potential may be limitless. Give it careful thought. Location includes a safe environment, access to loading and unloading (if needed), and ample parking. My first store was huge for me 2,700 square feet for $3000 a month. I gave it much thought and had twenty vendors to start. It covered my rent. There was ample interest and buyers, but I made I huge mistake. Although on a major road in NJ, it did not allow for more than one hour of parking. I applied to the state to have a “loading-unloading” zone for furniture, but it was denied. The beautiful victorian and french provincial furniture pieces could not be moved without extreme anxiety. The horrors of that mistake I share readily to save anyone from that incredible disaster.

2. Name

The name of your salvage business should reflect you. Your style, vibe, what you are offering. It should be simple, easy to spell, and domain-friendly. No need to stay in tune with the name of the town, you can go a bit wild. The odd names are what people remember. There are hundreds of sites on the internet to help you choose something reflecting your needs. There is also a deeper connection if you brainstorm meaningful words to yourself to come up with something special for the long haul. “Jack’s Dry Goods” is elemental, but not noteworthy. “Dirty Salvage” people may remember. I came across a storefront years ago named “Dead People’s Stuff”, now that was something I remembered. Take your time on this one, let it marinate in your soul before committing to that domain.
Vintage vinyls© Brooklyn Muse

3. Preparation

Whether you choose an online shop, brick and mortar space, or co-op preparation is key. Take a hard look at your finances and budget with impunity. You are destined to overthink some purchases, it’s okay, it is part of the process. Re-visit spending-concentrate on initial necessities. Invest in the proper computer programs and digital software to monitor and organize pricing, sales, clients, and finances. Buy the truck, if that is what helps you to rescue salvage from fleas, yard sales, junkyards, rummage sales, estates, and garbage bins. Preparation includes getting your word out with family, friends, and media. These people will initially be your bread and butter, so engage them in your new reality. Your initial support system may also have resources to assist you in the set-up of the business. Does Aunt Kate and Uncle John own that painting company? Is Sara’s brother a designer? You will certainly not be aware of all the answers to this new venture at once. There is no disgrace in asking for a hand to help you stand up.

4. Reach outside your personal comfort zone

You are not looking to find items for yourself. Your comfort zone is not all that important.The business of salvage to sustain an income for yourself and your family. You do not have to like everything you purchase or find. If it is intriguing, odd, colorful, and cheap-buy it. Remember the goal for your business is to sell, sell, sell.

5. Travel

Find items outside of your usual environment. Hometown junk has a limited market. Search for oddities. I once bought fifty old bike tire frames from a trailer sale off a road in Pennsylvania. Their interior was bright, colorfully wild, highlighted paint. I paid $1 each and sold them for $45 a piece. A store scavenger from Brooklyn bought ten to place on the ceiling of his funky city coffee shop. I felt the design of his space was beautiful and the result of my effort. Travel through the internet calls to curiosities. An internet sale may also provide groupings of small curios for a reasonable fee. These items such as militaria, hardware, pottery, ephemera, artwork are many times woven into the fabric of distant places you travel as you scroll the web. Vintage textiles from India and old pottery from Africa add culture and history to your new domain. In addition, their inspiration and creativity will add an eclectic mood to your store. An odd carousel from the beach or huge church clock that was thrown in the dumpster brings insight, art, and mindfulness to the buyer. It rings a soul song to them, resonates, and enhances their space and their lives. Decorators and designers will quickly find your place and use your wares to enhance their businesses. Prop mongers from the city will see your efforts and travel to grab specifics for their productions. Seriously, don’t limit your imagination to what you think you can accomplish- that only holds you back. Have an open, translucent frame of mind to grow in multifaceted ways. The purpose of this adventure is to build a business, but also to build yourself. Personal knowledge of history, people, culture, language will give insight into yourself. Travel - even from the simple desktop can spark new ideas. The clear realization of your strengths and weaknesses will enhance inner confidence.

6. Study

A savvy salvage business will have obtained knowledge of a variety of topics throughout history. Yes, you will always have your iPhone, internet, and eBay sources for a consult, but the most well-informed clients will be looking for dealers that know their history. Strive to be better and learn each day from sources. Read about the items you gather, those you wish to find, and those you are asked to collect. In the study, you will often find like-minded people. Book stores, libraries, museums, and the web are great resources. Conversations will begin to flow with ease. Get out of the house and off of the internet and go make contacts. Be self-confident in the fact that you want to learn and share that information. People love to talk and share what they know- it makes them feel good inside. No one knows everything, so don’t be afraid to show weakness. Weaknesses make us human, not stupid. Let the ego fly away and learn to better yourself and contribute to others. In this regard, you will not only gain an advantage in business but self-confidence as well.

7. Connect

Shout from the rooftops to your immediate family, friends, and co-workers about your new adventure. Many individuals are looking to unload their items. They may not have anything currently but may keep you in mind. You will be surprised at how many people will come to you out of the woodwork to sell their wares. Don’t give up on the old business card. Make a cool one from the internet ( about $12 per 200 ) and pass them along. Post these in your business community, faculty room, general stores, and post office. Take an ad in the local weekly mailings and use your neighborhood applications. Go to your local junkyard and make friends with the owners. I have discovered that car mechanics often have odd finds and are willing to part with them. I have purchased several vintage license plates, car horns, front embellishments, and steering wheels using this tactic. Think outside the box, connect- that is where the money is.
Hand chair© Brooklyn Muse

8. Embrace diversity

The focus is not on just furniture, ephemera, jewelry, vinyl, military, pottery, and books. It is anything and everything from a wide variety of diverse cultures and people. Go wild. Your goal is to sell. Embrace diversity when you see the street vendor throwing away their art stencils, the optician renovating their office, the dentist selling old tooth forms. Find unusual items on the internet and resell them. I mentioned my scavenging to a random store clerk in New Jersey. Her brother had a bunch of rugs he wanted to sell in bulk from Tanzania. That was an unexpected world find! A local coffee shop owner purchased free trade coffee for her business. It was a cool shop — tire tables, industrial garage feel. We began to converse daily. She had contact of fair trade vintage clothing for me through her business. It is a ripple effect. Go for the ripple effect. Few people want to browse and see the same old antique junk over and over. Been there. Done that. Embrace diversity, not just in culture. Have a variety of metals -steel, silver, iron, copper goods. Use hard and softwoods in natural elements for display and products like oak, pine, cherry, and ash. Take advantage of unique stone /clay materials that can be found in pottery, kitchenware, art sculptures, and jewelry. If you have a brick-and-mortar or rent a co-op space, utilize the space to express a variety of people, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, gender, and sexual orientations. Use the floor, ceiling, walls, cases. Integrate books of all genres- make them scream out to the customer by highlighting them with lights or small frames which include a typed background of the author. Don’t kid yourself, many people enjoy learning new things. Educate them on their journey through your space. People browse and shop for relaxation and knowledge. Have a huge black and white Casablanca film running on the wall, showcase that vinyl by placing them in frames in the hallway, take that cool boldly- dressed mannequin, and have it hold an unusual antique light fixture. Do weird things to bring attention to space. The lighting of various colors works wonders. Textiles and global vintage posters keep customers reading and browsing. Bring in culture and people of culture will come to you.

9. Price reasonably

Double your income. Buy for $15 sell for $30. Buy for $100 — sell for $200. The finance factor is the primary reason you are in the salvage business. You will make mistakes in your purchases and pricing. That is okay as long as you learn from the experience. Once you learn, you will realize that those financial mistakes can balance out. One artifact may go for more, one for less. Know your audience. If you feel- after your research- the item purchased has significant value, go for it. That is where the knowledge of #4 Study comes to play. Once you know current historical artifacts, you can feel confident about your pricing and the value of the piece. In addition, keep in mind you want to showcase the variety and move things quickly. An advertised 10% off sale- every few months- brings customers to the forefront.

10. Take pride in accomplishments

Be proud of yourself every, single day. Any personal business is a labor of love. The ten important elements are new adventures for you. That calling, if done with planning and critical mindfulness, will have a ripple effect on all you encounter. Your passions reflect the inner sanctum of your spirit. When you follow these passions you have a ripple effect on others. It is a soul thing. The connections will be made with ease and you will embrace your accomplishments. You will find that you have strengths as well as weaknesses. Do not be too hard on yourself. Reach out to other professionals in the field when in need. Think of this salvage adventure as a learning curve with yourself and your abilities. You are providing a service in recycling historical artifacts to serve as art, design, and happiness to collectors in their search process. Happy Scavenging.
Vintage life© Brooklyn Muse

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M.Ed specializing in teaching and curriculum, educator. writer. editor. photographer. dreamer. designer. treasure hunter. mountains. beach. city. all images ©️ Brooklyn Muse


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