SO. Where were we? Ah yes... In my last post I was saying "YES" and venturing out into the world of the small business owner. And now, it's October, and many months have gone by since the paperwork was filed, and the fee's were paid, and now I find myself $3k in debt, to...uh...myself.
There are various expenses incurred when starting your own business, even if you are doing virtually all the work alone. I even built my own garment rails to save money...(pictured below) and I STILL had to lay out 4K total just to get my little store off the ground.
I decided to sell at the the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea, and also online. Easy you say... buy some vintage clothing, pack up your car, set up shop and have a lovely old time. I said the same thing... And now I laugh in my own face.
Just to get going I needed garment rails, shopping bags, tents for shade. I pay $120 per month space rental, $120 per month uhaul rental, and at least $75 in lunch and gas. I needed labels, label guns ,tissue paper, office supplies, a book keeper and jewelry displays, and non of this actually includes the cost of stock for resale.
Let's talk about stock. Where do you think your vintage clothing comes from? We'd all like to think our one of a kind finds have been hanging in the back of some sweet old biddy's closet for the last 50 years, until one day she pops off and they emerge in a glory of lost treasure now found but... News flash: That is not the case. I buy my vintage wholesale from rag houses. Enormous warehouses in the unloved parts of Los Angeles that require a dust mask, a strong back, and an even stronger will. I spend the better part of a day knee deep in the ugliest clothing you have ever seen, desperateley hoping that under the hundreds of pounds of 80's shoulder pads there will be a miracle. One piece of vintage clothing that not only is beautiful enough to save, but somehow not stained, or torn, or shredded. The number of incredible damaged finds I have had to throw back into the vast ocean of vintage crap is devastating. The simple fact is, true chic vintage is rare, because it rarely makes it this far.
So we have our stock, our rails and our tents, we've loaded our truck for 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon, packed our lunch and picked our outfit for the following day (something that says "I'm cool so my taste in vintage must be" ) now what? Well, you hit the sack around 7pm on Saturday night. No more SNL for you. Wake up around 2:30 / 3am on Sunday morning, eat some breakfast, hit the shower, hit the road. You arrive at the rose bowl around 3:30am, where you're greeted with a line of trucks a mile long, all waiting to gain entry to the gates of second hand goods. In the veil of darkness, you find your way to your 18ft x 20ft space, and you join your fellow vendors. Your comrades. The only other people in the world who know what its like to have joined this circus, and you each make your little slice of home. In a few hours an empty lot becomes the valley of the lost and found, and for one day only, we are the people of the Rose Bowl Flea.
WE ARE STRANGE FOLK, all trying to get by without committing to the 9 - 5 lifestyle we just weren't made for, and you never tire of the stories and personalities behind the facade of the ever smiling vendor. My neighbor was making a sale last week when a gentleman asked him "Are you big?" to which he obviously was a little confused, until the afore mentioned gentleman went on to ask if he "gave good head". There are two ladies selling jewelry across from me who make for fascinating people watching, every week one of the ladies bosses the other around in the most patronizing way, scolding her for not performing some menial task to her high standards, and then a customer will stop by and she'll flip on a dime. There are a couple odd balls who walk around in white gloves and face masks, a lovely old fellow who turned his motorized assistance scooter into a steam train, sound effects and all, and wears the cap and scarf to match. There's one vendor who won't let you buy anything... never understood that one. But despite our quirks and strange little habits, we are a community. We are a family. If your engine dies somebody's ready with a jump lead. If your stock blows away, somebody gives chase and brings it home safely. If its 100 degrees and you can't quite hold up, somebody shares their water, and shares their shade. And when the sun starts setting and the crowd thins out, we all celebrate or commiserate the days takings together.
As much as I love the Rose Bowl Flea and all its quirks I'm afraid I'm on my way out. I never intended for this to be a profession, I always saw it as more of a hobby, and for me the benefits just don't out weigh the work. It's hard, It's really hard. And more than anything I miss being able to peruse the thousands of stalls myself. But, never one to give up lightly, I'm committed to staying in the game until I break even.
So, If you find yourself Pasadena way on the second Sunday of the month, you might just see me, or, I might be already gone. Either way, I hope the next time you buy anything from a flea, you don't bargain quite as hard as you did. The people of the Rose Bowl Flea kill themselves to be there, and they deserve every penny they get.