Tonia North, owner of North Star Antiques, has had an interest in antiques for as long as she can remember. Three years ago the opportunity to open her own antique shop presented itself and she hasn’t looked back since. Her business is gearing up for a two-week celebration starting the middle of February. Visitors can look for discounts, giveaways, and other surprises.
A Love for Antiques
North was drawn to antiques as she learned about items her grandmother had that came with a history and story. Initially it was furniture that caught her attention but in 2003 after the passing of her mother she turned to postcards. North inherited vintage postcards which belonged to her grandmother and mother. She started collecting and selling vintage cards that same year, teaching herself how to navigate eBay. North currently has several hundred postcards in her personal collection and thousands available for purchase, including many with images of Lowell.
Three years ago the owner of Dovetail Antiques decided to retire. North was given the opportunity to take over and after contemplating going back to selling her antiques merely online versus taking over the store, she took the plunge. Her knowledge and love for antiques made the transition and rebranding of the store relatively seamless.
While the previous owner specialized in primitives, or early American furniture prior to mass production, North took the business in a different direction. “The biggest change I made was embracing the idea that we have something for everyone. Even those that believe they ‘don’t like antiques’.” says North.
North’s philosophy is a connection to antiques with their history and stories from the past doesn’t change. However, with each generation the way antiques are looked upon does change. She believes that even “old” can have new and changing trends over time. In the past, trends on how antiques were viewed and used came from magazines. While magazines still aid in current trends, digital media has also played an important role in recent years. Television shows depict people picking through things looking for a good find. Do it yourself programs and Pinterest inspire people with ways to incorporate antiques in more modern decor.
Embracing the Old with the New While Servicing Customers
One of the first marks North left when opening her own business was that of paint. She painted the interior of the space, which was a feat due to the height of the walls in the old building. She refers to this as being symbolic of a fresh start. She’s also not afraid to mix in some newer pieces or items that are unique. Offering unique pieces is one area which drives her market and customers.
North Star Antiques works with dealers, vendors, and consignors. Dealers are required to work hours in the store each month and maintain their own space. In addition to North, there are another six dealers who have products in the store. Vendors price and clean their own items. North says this group typically consists of pickers or those who have a lot of items to sell. There are about six people in this category and those who are vendors changes regularly. Finally, consignors bring in items which North will sell for them. Their items are cleaned and priced in the store and put our for sale with the owner and store splitting the profit when things sell. There are approximately 25 consignors with items in the store on any given day. Many baby boomers are purging items and bring things in to North to sell on their behalf.
Working with customers is an important aspect of owning an antique business for North. “Another key thing we brought to the table was that we are here to serve our customers. Some are buying, some are selling.” she remarks about those she works with on a daily basis.
Visitors of the store can expect to find a large variety of items. And the inventory continually changes so repeat visits are encouraged. North also likes to educate those who are interested in antiques. Articles are often posted on the North Star Antiques webpage as well as their Facebook page. Some of the topics include supply versus demand, when to paint something versus keeping it original, and educating buyers and sellers.
A two-week celebration will take place February 15 – 29. Each day will feature in-store discounts and giveaways. In addition to the items being given away by dealers, items from the store’s paint line, Lowell Bucks, and store gift certificates are on the long list of daily prizes. Those who come in to shop will need to register with an email address.
In addition to celebrating three years in downtown Lowell, North Star Antiques is celebrating teamwork. North says, “We could not have achieved what we have so far without the people who work with us.” The entire team who works hours each month works together to make sure all of the time is covered. Dealer Cindy Lousma took on the task of putting together the store’s window display for the Christmas holiday. Karin Jelsma has been a dealer at North Star Antiques from the beginning. Jelsma is known for her participation in Christmas Through Lowell. And one dealer, Terry McBurney is a carryover from when the space was Dovetail. He is known for his knowledge of vintage fishing tackle and writes for Woods and Waters. He will also be a featured guest at the Ultimate Sport Show at Devos Place in March. Long-time consignors Donna and Barney Dykhouse have been bringing in products to sell for years. “They are fabulous and at 85 & 91 years young, a true inspiration to many!” North says of the pair.
Continuing to Learn and Grow
North has had to learn a lot about being a small business owner. She knew it would be a lot of hard work but it was worth it. She has had to learn about the products in the store, marketing, accounting, inventory management, and more over the years. And she continues to learn and tweak things to become a better business owner.
The Estate room is available for rent over shorter periods of time. The 10×5 foot space is available for $75/month plus 15% commission to cover credit card feeds, bags, and advertising. North says the area is a great way for those looking to downsize or who may be interested in being a dealer but want to see what it’s like before making a larger commitment.
Part of North’s mission statement when she opened North Star Antiques was to give back to the community. In 2019 events were held where money was raised for The Equine Barn and Pink Arrow and hopes to continue giving back in 2020.
Those interested in antiques and those who are curious about how tangible items can elicit memories, emotions, and even be used to create new memories are invited to stop by North Star Antiques. North also has over 8,500 items listed online at eBay, Rubylane, and Etsy. She believes there’s something for everyone at her store and within the world of antiques.
North Star Antiques is located at 211 W. Main. Their winter hours are listed in the photo below.