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Business Series: An Inside Look at an Antique Co-op

Vintage Indie would like to welcome Karla the delightful proprietress of Polka Dot Rose. Karla also participates in a local antique co-op and has given us an inside look on what it means to be apart of the co-op.

Polka Dot Rose

Hi Karla, thank you for joining us here at Vintage Indie. Can you explain to us what an antique co-op is exactly?

An antique co-op is an antique store with many different dealers represented. Normally there is an owner that will have his or her own merchandise. Often an antique dealer will start with her own shop; it can be difficult to keep a large shop stocked with fresh and inviting inventory. Having other dealers bring in their own unique merchandise can really give a boost to an existing shop.

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How did you get started in the co-op?

Since we could no longer meet the demands of full time shopkeeping, becoming part of a co-op was perfect for us. We started in a well established shop in a neighboring town. It was a small shop with a few select dealers and an established clientele. We were able to set up our portion of the shop (often referred to as a 'space' or 'booth') to reflect our personality and to highlight our particular type of vintage goods.

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What is involved with a co-op?

Although there are many different ways to set up and maintain an antique co-op, the basic idea is that it is a cooperative effort between a few or many different dealers. The shop is divided into separate areas or spaces, often of varying size. Rent is established by the owner and will vary according to size and perhaps location within the shop. An agreement is set up in advance and will usually involve working in the shop a number of days per month. This time is considered part of the 'rent' and is therefore obviously, not a paid position. We are members of a co-op, rather than employees of the shop. A few of us in our current co-op formerly owned and operated our own antique or vintage shops. A few have only worked in a co-op situation, but have been involved for years. There are a few who are just starting out. After seeing their private collections grow beyond what they can store or display themselves, a co-op provided an outlet for that collecting hobby.

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Do you have a set location?

We do have a set location. We have been in many different shops throughout our county. The location where we are currently located is fairly new for us, therefore we have joined a business with other dealers. Many of them have been with the shop since its inception.  Since we are relatively new in this particular co-op, we have a fairly small space and are located to the back of the shop. We hope eventually to be able to acquire a space closer to the front, we seem to be always wishing we had more room!

It can be daunting to get as much merchandise as we would like into a limited amount of space. It does teach one to be creative with display! There are many advantages to being in antique co-op. Many of the long established dealers have their own following and established customers who frequent the shop; this benefits all the dealers.  It is also a wonderful way to become educated in areas of collecting that may not be your particular niche. It is also informative to see what people are looking for and what they buy.  We are fortunate in our co-op to have a group of dealers who are respectful of one another and genuinely interested in each others success. A successful co-op enterprise is one where all dealers prosper and thrive plus we have a lot of fun!

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Thank you so much Karla for sharing your co-op experiences with us. Please take a moment to visit Karla's online web-shop at Polka Dot Rose.



My mom and I used to always search the antique shops! Just like this one!


This is a great idea -- I wish someone were doing it in Chicago. Maybe I'll start one... By the way -- totally love the business series!

Vintage Indie

Hi Katherine,

Thanks so much I'm glad you are enjoying the business series.

Have a great day!

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