“Sourcing is one of the hardest but most rewarding parts of the job,” says Sean. “We conduct real estate sales online and in person, on digital marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc. We also have other furniture dealers across the country that we source from. We’d say it’s definitely an every man for himself scenario, especially as more and more furniture dealers are popping up across the country.
Zeus notes that fabric, size, and weight also significantly affect the price of furniture. “Upholstery can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 or more for a sofa, or $500 for a single lounge chair,” he explains. “We do most deliveries ourselves for a low fee in the tri-state area and use a courier service for nationwide deliveries. This price can vary greatly depending on size and weight. For example, a sectional sofa can cost between $800 and $1,200 from New Jersey to California.
Selin Naz, a full-time interior designer and owner of Studio 26, earned about $30,000 from her side business in her first year. To help with the business, she bought an SUV to reduce some of the shipping and delivery costs. “As you know, gasoline prices have increased dramatically. There are days when I drive six hours or more and consume a full tank of gas in one supply trip,” she adds.
Budgeting for additional costs like renting a showroom is another expense vintage dealers need to factor into their business model. Tri-State Modern pays $3,000 a month in rent for its showroom in Union City, New Jersey. Similar to Selin, they often store certain pieces in their apartments to avoid additional storage costs, making their homes look like galleries.
Lately there’s been a conversation about the ethics of reselling old furniture for a higher price, but, as David explains, “there are a lot of costs that get overlooked. It’s easy to scoff at a pair of chairs for $9,000. But what you don’t see are the four hours and miles it took to get the chairs, the $1,000 it cost to reupholster the chairs, the $500 in fabric. The time and miles it took to take them to the upholstery store and pick them up, and when they sell the miles and wait time for the shipper. And most, if not all of us, don’t have employer health insurance, 401(k), etc. We also need to set aside money for estimated taxes. I try to look at all of these expenses that I will face with every purchase and factor them into buying decisions. »
Perhaps the biggest expense is the time these dealerships devote to running a profitable business. “The worst part is definitely the amount of sacrifice we put into this work,” says Jessica. “Very often we miss activities with our friends and family because our schedule makes it impossible. That’s definitely the biggest love-hate part of this job because we love what we do, but hate missing out on time with them.
Not to discourage anyone from entering the profession of vintage furniture dealer, but Selin says the most rewarding thing is allowing others to enjoy the pieces she buys, remodels and sells. “I love what I do, I idealize vintage furniture,” she says. “My goal is to educate my clients and inform them of the value of investing in vintage designer pieces. For anyone looking to get started in the industry, I strongly advise you do it because you love it, not just for the monetary returns, but because you see the beauty in it. In a way, we are selling the story.