Good eye by Peggy Whiteneck

Discover Vintage America - JUNE 2018

A wing-ding of a spring fling!

The Vermont Antique Mall in Quechee, believed to be the largest multi-dealer shop in Vermont, is the anchor business in a complex of artisanal shops known as Quechee Gorge Village, a destination spot for tourists and collectors. Recently, dealers and preferred customers of the mall were treated to a genius event the antique mall's owners, Cindy and Mark Walker, first dreamt up and then pulled off. After their normal closing time of 5 p.m., they kept the shop open until 7 p.m. and hosted a kind of "meet the dealers" event to which they also invited frequent shoppers.

From left to right, Sue Rogers (front desk manager), Tyler Walker (Mark and Cindy's son, an avid guitarist and Johnny Cash aficionado, who provided live music for the Spring Fling event), and Cindy Walker (co-owner of the Vermont Antique Mall with her husband Mark, who was out on the floor playing host when this was taken). (photo courtesy of Vermont Antique Mall)

This was a first-ever event, and the Walkers took the risk that it might flop. They were very pleasantly rewarded when so many dealers and preferred customers showed up. So how and why was this risky first-time event such a success?


Relationship building

The Walkers are warm and personable, and bring more energy, commitment, and fresh marketing and merchandising ideas to the business than the mall had seen in a long time. (The antique mall was sold to the Walkers a couple of years ago.) All of which is to say that, after working with the Walkers, there isn't much we dealers – and the mall staff, too! – wouldn't do for them.


If you feed them, they will come

The mall's admittedly unusual situation as the anchor among smaller businesses provided a unique win-win situation for Cabot Cheese shop and the Vermont Wine & Spirits company to, so to speak, "cater" the event. For these businesses, it was a way to promote their products while supporting the antique mall.


The curiosity factor

This event provided a unique opportunity for dealers, generally an introverted and even taciturn bunch, to meet each other on a basis more relaxed and less rushed than the occasional, chance encounter with another dealer while stocking their respective booths. If only out of curiosity, we wanted to "see who was there."

'Which is your booth?' But we're not talking here about mere idle curiosity. Both dealers and preferred customers got to know not only the dealers themselves, but where specific dealers' display areas were located in the mall. Since dealers often buy from other dealers, the event provided a mutual marketing opportunity. There's something about actually meeting and talking with the seller that enhances the buying experience; again, it's about building relationships.


On an off-season weekday (Who would have thought?)

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the event was successful because it was held on a weekday evening. American culture is so accustomed to a smorgasbord of arts, culture, athletic, and other events from which to choose on a weekend that one more competing for their attention hardly has a chance.

Weekends also tend to be a busy time for dealers themselves, who are off scouting shops for inventory or attending auctions and shows. So a weekday evening – and early enough on the tail end of the workday that people didn't feel like they were giving up their whole evening – really seemed to work in building dealer participation.

The event was also held in an off-season – that quiescent period in nature between winter finally giving up the ghost and spring daring to show its face. The Walkers called their event the "Spring Fling," and it was especially welcome this year, at the end of an April up here in Vermont where patches of snow and ice still littered the ground where the sun doesn't reach. Such an event could be held any time of year, of course, but there's a real advantage to doing it in one of the interstitial, between-times on the calendar when the cabin-fevered are looking for something to do.

To promote your business and to get to know dealers better, is an event like this, or some variant of it, something to consider in your neck of the country?


Peggy Whiteneck is a writer, collector and dealer living in East Randolph, VT. If you would like to suggest a subject that she can address in her column, email her at allwrite@sover.net.