Episode 41 - Furnish Me Vintage Interview with Jackie Williams
Jackie Williams and her husband Todd Wilson are the brains behind an amazing multistory boutique in St Petersburg called Furnish Me Vintage specializing in all things hip and cool!
You’ll find vinyl records, Danish furniture, mid-century design, probably a cool car, some retro stereo equipment, and some awesome artwork.
Take a trip back to the 50s, 60s, and 70s at Furnish Me Vintage!
Transcript at the bottom of this page!
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Furnish Me Vintage
Great Things Tampa Bay is hosted and produced by Kyle Sasser.
There was no paid advertising in this episode. All recommendations are given based on personal experiences.
Also featuring bumper music by Author:Oscar Woods Title:”Dont Sell It Dont Give It Away”.
Kyle: This is Kyle Sasser. I’m here with Jackie Williams. And I’ll let you do a little introduction for yourself.
Jackie: Hi. I’m Jackie Williams, owner of Furnish Me Vintage along with my husband, Todd Wilson. We are one of the largest mid-century modern dealers in the nation and just happen to be here in downtown St. Petersburg. What we do is we buy high-end and designer vintage pieces and restore them here in-house. It’s all contained in-house at Carpenters Upholsters Welding. And we bring them back to their original glory or reimagine them and then we sell them right here in Tampa Bay, all across Florida, and actually nationally and internationally.
Kyle: Yep. And the craftsmanship if I may say, is exquisite. So, you know, I’ve been in here quite a few times with my wife and the craftsmanship has always impressed me like the level of pieces that you have. And then I met Sharon, I believe her name was?
Kyle: Yeah, the upholsterer, very nice lady. And yeah, she does like, amazing work, so.
Jackie: She does. I mean, she has, first of all a lifetime of experience and knowledge and skill. And what happens is we’ll get this kind of piece in and it looks like it came from the bottom of the sea and, you know, completely tattered and looks like something you should use for kindling. And the team will get together and even from, you know, our sales staff to the carpenters and Sharon, we’ll all look at it and we’ll brainstorm and come up with things. And it’s really a team effort. You know, Sharon does the upholstery restoration. The carpenters and my husband do the woodworking. But…
Kyle: And they all do like even redoing the finishes and all that stuff?
Jackie: Oh, yeah. All the wood is refinished in-house. But like say, we’re restoring a chair, it literally gets stripped down to the bones, down to the wooden skeleton, gets new batting, new foam, new support straps, new upholstery, the wood gets refinished. So it’s like you’re getting a brand new vintage piece.
Kyle: And honestly, like walking around here, that’s what it feels like. It feels like you’re walking through a showroom in like, 1950-something, you know. Like just with the level of, you know, finish and all this stuff.
Jackie: Yeah, when you walk through, there are doors. It is like stepping back in time. And we have a 1972 Mach One Mustang in our store.
Kyle: It’s pretty sweet.
Jackie: We have a record store spinning vinyl from, you know, the ’50s through the ’70s. You have all the furniture. So it’s almost like a museum.
Kyle: It’s awesome. It’s awesome. So how’d you get started with all this?
Jackie: You know, my husband and I moved here in 2009 from Upstate New York. And it was really a new beginning for us. We didn’t have anything with those other than our clothes and a few necessities. And we bought a home very quickly and we didn’t have any furniture. This is in 2009 before the big, you know, bursting of Tampa Bay with new people and new everything. So…
Kyle: Yeah, the growth explosion we’ve been having recently.
Jackie: Yeah, this is pre-growth explosion. In fact, it was pretty dull here from the recession. This area had been hit pretty bad so things were kind of gloomy. But anyways, we bought the home. We weren’t excited about any of the furniture options that we were seeing out there, like, mainstream stuff. To us it was like you were spending the money but you weren’t getting much for quality. And, you know, we’re first time homeowners we wanted things that we can be proud of in our home. So we started antiquing. Didn’t really quite like that ecstatic because it’s really old looking, you know, like Victorian.
So then we discovered mid-century modern. We had a home from the 1950s. And we loved that because it matched the quality of an antique piece, but with a contemporary look. A lot of people think of modern meaning today. But modern is an aesthetic, meaning like clean lines and kind of like machine-made and minimalist. So it doesn’t denote a time period. It denotes an aesthetic. So we started collecting mid-century modern, we had a very small home, so my husband was working from home. He would sell the pieces out of our garage and he always had a knack for business. So he started to realize he can make money at it. And it was, you know, kind of like Amazon or Hewlett Packard. You know, we started out of our garage.
Kyle: Very bootstrapping.
Jackie: Yeah, very…the time old tale started out of our garage and here we are and a 30,000 square foot building with… You know, we just started with the money that we had in our pocket, and, you know, our own blood, sweat, and tears. And there was plenty of that. So…
Kyle: No, I can definitely understand. So, like, me personally, I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 18. So, you know, I can relate with definitely, you know, a labor of love for a while before you really start to realize the success of it. It’s an overnight success that took like, you know, 10 years in the making.
Jackie: Right. And I think that the hard thing about being an entrepreneur is, there’s a lot of pain before there’s any glory. And if you have the dexterity to get yourself through that, you know, you can be a success.
Kyle: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Well, that’s awesome. Well, so those that haven’t been here, could you just give us kind of the rundown on the show room here, you know, how big it is?
Jackie: Yeah. So we have four floors here. Our first floor…and it’s all mixed throughout. Some people ask, you know, is it organized in any particular way? Not really, because we like to present the furniture as it would appear in your home. So we’ll have, you know, a sofa, love seat, chair and tables, artwork all set up like a vignette, like, if someone walked into your living room. So the first floor has a lot of furniture, art seating, that’s where our car is. That’s where our reception desk is. We hold events there, sometimes. Our second floor has our new record store, which is a completely…it’s an independent business that we own, but it’s housed right here in Furnish Me Vintage.
So you’re getting like a whole lifestyle. I mean, we have the car, we have the music, we have the furniture. We have the art. And so up in the record shop you’ll find tons of vintage vinyl, vintage “Playboys,” vintage Rolling Stones, all of your audio gear turntables, microphones, headphones, etc. Third and fourth floor is going to be tons more furniture. Lots of bedroom and dining up there, we have one whole showroom floor dedicated to dining. And that’s 8,000 square feet. So yeah, I mean, if you’re looking for something for your home, you can shop for every room in your house with plenty of options to choose from all under one roof.
Kyle: Yeah. And personally my favorite, I think it’s on the fourth floor still, but it’s all of the Danish wall organization systems. Those are always tops for me.
Jackie: They’re fun. They’re a lot of fun. Luckily, you have the room to display that sort of thing. A lot of showrooms are tight on space. So we’re able to display things in a very appealing way, and a way that’s easy to navigate through and easy to kind of digest because it’s not cluttered in or anything.
Kyle: Yeah. And honestly, it kind of keeps with, you know, you mentioned the aesthetic earlier. And when you walk in, you can definitely feel that, you know, someone has a design eye that’s laid all this stuff out, you know. Like, most vintage or antique stores you go into, it’s just stuff piled on top of stuff. And it’s like here at Furnish Me Vintage, you know, it’s like, you can actually see and look at the piece and like experience it, you know, so you can see you can see if it’s going to fit in your home or not.
Jackie: Yeah, that’s partly is my fault because I’m a little OCD. You know, if I walk past one of our couches and there is a cushion that’s off, I come in with my ruler, and I’m like, “Who did this?” But, you know, I’m pretty like…you know, clutter make gives me anxiety. So I like everything to be open. We do have accessories and things but they’re kind of sparse. They’re just exactly what you need in the exact right spot and nothing more. And that’s kind of true to the modern design aesthetic. It’s all about form over function, minimalism. So, actually it was a reaction and a rejection against kind of Victorian decor motifs of prior years where it was all about pomp.
Kyle: Like all the intricate carvings, and mahogany wood, arm walls, and all that stuff.
Kyle: So what success do you feel is your greatest achievement here at Furnish Me Ventures? Like, what part are you most proud of with this enterprise?
Jackie: You know, I’m really proud of our product. You know, you can get vintage furniture anywhere, but I’m not ashamed to say you’re not going to get anything as good as you can get here. My husband and I are very particular. We only select things in a shop that we would put in our own home and we have high standards. And we only put out product that is good enough that we would put in our own home.
And like I said, we sell locally, but we ship things nationally, internationally. And the last thing I want is a customer in California saying, “This piece doesn’t meet my standards. What’s wrong with this? The drawer is stuck,” all that. So we make sure everything is in tip-top condition, so that when you buy our 60-year old piece of furniture and put it in your home, it’s going to last you another 60 years.
Kyle: Yeah. And you’re all renowned. I’m sure you all are probably there already. But on Reddit, they have the mid-century sub-Reddit there and you’re all mentioned pretty frequently there as a great source for mid-century furniture.
Jackie: Oh, wow. I haven’t checked that out. But I know we get around because, you know, well, we’ve been in “New York Magazine,” “Huffington Post,” “Boston Globe,” “Atomic Ranch,” “House Beautiful,” “Lucky” magazine, you know, all of that, “Great Things,” “Tampa Bay,” “Bay” magazine. But I think because we’re as voracious with maintaining our online presence as we are with our in store presence because, you know, that’s how many people see the world now. That’s how many people actually since the world. I actually was a web designer before I started this.
So right from the beginning, we always had a very strong web presence. In fact, online sales drove our business for the first half of the business, not just nationally, but our online presence and our online listings, and our online store, serving as a catalog to bring in the local customers as well. That was our main source of advertising. We didn’t really advertise at all by traditional means until recently. It’s all just been, you know, being tenacious with maintaining our website, new listings every day, maintaining and updating our website every day. Facebook first, and then Instagram, Craigslist even, we post stuff everywhere. We sell on first dibs cherish. We don’t play around.
Kyle: Because traditional advertising is expensive.
Jackie: It is.
Kyle: And the returns nowadays is kind of, you know… Basically like, you know, with like Facebook and Instagram, you can reach so many more people, for a lot less money. And have a lot more direct engagement with them. It’s impressive.
Jackie: It is. And I think you’re able to reach a niche person, you know. People type in “blue chair with walnut wood.” And, you know, blue chair with walnut wood pops up. They don’t just open up their newspaper and see that. You know, people are very specific. People, you know, have their phones tethered to their hands and their eyes. And they’re on there all the time. So we need to be there.
Kyle: Yeah. So which failure is your favorite? Which one did you learn the most from?
Jackie: You know, that’s a difficult question for me, because I may be one of the lucky few that I don’t think has had any spectacular failures. You know, there’s always challenges and things that may have been a little bit disappointing. And, you know, I feel like almost every day, every week, there’s some element of failure. And when I wake up in the morning, I typically start my day with a to-do list, because there’s a lot to be done. This is a huge company and there’s only about five people working here. And we have, you know, our other two businesses. There’s a lot to keep track of.
So I feel like almost every day is kind of…I start off in a position of failure. And I have my to-do list to keep me on track, to keep me on target with goals. I always maintain goals and make sure that I’m working a little bit every day to accomplish those goals. And they can be as simple as, make sure I get a new sign for the front of the store or, you know, I want to attract a certain famous designer, how do I do that? And I have small steps to get me to that goal, the end goal. But, you know, I feel like there’s an element of failure in my life every single day and every day I’m working toward tackling that.
Kyle: Yeah. So like I said, I’ve basically five goals for the day. And I’m like these are the five things I need to do sort of by priority. And yeah, like, as a long as you’re moving forward towards those every day, like, eventually, you will get there.
Jackie: Right. And sometimes goals can seem kind of ominous and out of reach. But in order to relieve yourself of that anxiety, you just have to say, “Okay, this is a big goal, but what do I need to do to get there?” And take it step by step every day and you’ll get there.
Kyle: Yeah, break it down. Break it down to its component parts. What is one problem that you wish that you could solve right now?
Jackie: In my furniture world or worldwide, politically?
Kyle: I leave that open, you know.
Jackie: Well, it was going to be world hunger but climate change seems pretty scary for everyone on the planet. If I had a magic wand, climate change would be something that would have to be remedied. Especially for us in Florida, because…
Kyle: I agree. I live on Shore Acres so, yeah. I’m not looking forward to that too much.
Jackie: Yeah, this summer was a big eye opener. And I think anybody who may have doubted the impact of climate change after this summer…you really can’t deny it anymore. And so, you know, a bigger picture of climate change…
Kyle: I like it. Big things and then little.
Jackie: Yeah, but, you know, in regards to our business or here, you know, just making sure more people in the Tampa Bay area know we’re here because, you know, we’ve been in business almost seven years and still, if you go to New York City or LA, a lot of people know who we are, but if you go to Tampa, they may not know who we are.
Kyle: Yeah, so, all you all on the other side of the bay, the bridge is not that scary. Just get on…you know, get on to 75 or Gandy, come on across downtown St. Pete. And come and check out Furnish Me Vintage.
So, five-year goals. Where do you see you all going? Any plans to expand or change things up a little bit?
Jackie: Yeah, you know, I do have some things in mind over the next five years, but I don’t know if I want to share them. I’m not ready to put them out there yet. I think our business will change. You know, I feel like if you’re not changing, you’re not growing. Nothing in life is for certain or stagnant or remains the same. So I feel that definitely we’ll be changing and probably sooner rather than later. You know, certain things I don’t think I’m able to discuss at this point. But…
Kyle: I always ask that to see if I can get something juicy.
Jackie: Yeah, but, you know, I am a person who is excited about change, even when it’s uncertain. You know, I kind of embrace the uncertainty of life. So I’m looking forward to the future.
Kyle: Is there any new furniture trends? I know the mid-century thing’s been pretty strong here for a few years now. Any trends you see coming or anything like that?
Jackie: Yeah. So a lot of people always say that to me. They’re like, “Well, do you think mid-century will last the popularity of it?” And I think it will. You know, good design is timeless. And mid-century modern is pretty timeless. Its simplicity lends itself to being blended with other styles. It’s not really specific to any sort of geographic kind of location, like, you know, there’s south western style or mission, prairie style. And you think of specific areas when you think of that. Mid-century modern kind of transcends geography and time. So I think that it will continue to be popular. I think certain designers within the period and certain movements within the period do gain popularity and change over time. And, you know, we kind of roll with that. And I’m a huge art and design enthusiast. That’s my thing. Some people love sports. I couldn’t tell you one single rule in hockey or baseball or…I do know I’ve heard of Steph Curry, but any other, I couldn’t tell you.
Kyle: So like, the only reason you know that games are going on is because you see all the people walking over to Tropicana?
Jackie: All the cars. But if you asked me anything about art and design, I could talk to you all day about it. So, you know, it’s my world. I’m really immersed in it. And, you know, I’m excited about changes and trends in design. And we react to it. I like to think we trend set, because I mean, early on in our career, Todd and I were huge in the ’70s design, and our friends who are dealers who love Danish design, they’re like, “Oh, this stuff it’s hideous. Oh, what are you talking about? Oh, god, you’re an embarrassment.” And now look at it. The ’70s stuff…everyone loves it, from fashion to music. And you know, the mid-century modern period itself more is leaning toward the ’70s look at this time. And I always love that. So, you know what, I’m gonna just consider myself a trendsetter.
Kyle: [inaudible 00:17:47] All right, awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast here. You know, just let everybody know how they can find you, or how they can come see you, or where they can follow you online.
Jackie: Okay, so we’re open seven days a week here at our physical store, which is at 1246 Central, right on the corner of 13th and Central which is next door to Fuggs and across from Hawkers. Online, you can find us at furnishmevintage.com. We’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. @FurnishMeVintage, that’s our username on all social media. So it should be easy to find.
Kyle: It’s an awesome place. Come on down here and check out some furniture. It’s awesome.
Jackie: Thanks, Kyle.
Kyle: Thank you.