Carly Baskette is ready to take on February, Mood Ring Vintage,906 Sevier Ave., Knoxville, February 2024 (Photograph by Alexa-Marie Melendez)
(Today’s article is written by Insideofknoxville.com intern Alexa-Marie Melendez.)
January and February, people always talk about it. Your business is really busy in December and then it falls off drastically in January and February. Then it starts to get better as the weather improves. And I was like– what can we do to drum up some business during these slow times? – Carly Baskette, Owner of Mood Ring Vintage, Knoxville, TN
Collectively, people recognize January and February to be the slow time of the year. The time where we hit the brakes and buckle down. Where we partly or fully commit to new year resolutions, and start rebuilding savings, maybe in response to blowing through that holiday bonus we got in December. And it is a time that no one knows more than businesses, specifically small businesses, who feel the drastic drop in sales almost instantaneously. Local businesses are fully aware, as they prepare for this two-month long drought. But there is still a feeling of frustration and sorrow.
Yes, the flow of sales changes, but there is something else that shifts. Imagine waking up, grabbing your favorite breakfast, and opening your shop. You turn on the lights, illuminating all those rare treasures; furniture and houseware that dates to the 80s or 50s, black-and-white photos and vintage postcards, and the antique teacups sitting in a row. Each one of these items holds the history of a lifetime and connecting with patrons and newcomers alike – perhaps reminding them of a moment in their own lives.
You situate yourself in your shop, moving things about just as you see fit, then you sit waiting. It’s now 3 p.m. and you have only greeted about twelve people. Finally, you are closing the shop, only twenty people came in today. Trying to shrug it off, you remind yourself it’s only temporary. But still, you wonder if there is something you can do to increase store visitation.
That’s the question Carly Baskette, owner of Mood Ring Vintage asked herself. And she found an answer, and bingo was the name-o! No seriously, a city-wide bingo event taking place throughout the month of February. “I got it from ‘Where’s Waldo?’, they do downtown, where you must go get your card stamped . . . I was thinking this would be cool to do with bingo!” Carly believes that community is at the heart of any great city, and the support she needs is the same as the other local shops in Knoxville. She quickly reached out, asking twenty-four other shop-owners if they would like to join the event.
One of those owners is Jeana Vaughn of Vintage Etc., whose shop exhibits an eclectic arrangement of all things vintage and retro. Walking in, not only will you be greeted by Vaughn’s bright personality, but also Fulton Radio (WKCS-FM 91.1) playing overhead. Vintage Etc. is antiques with a twist, as shoppers can find items dating back to the 40s, but also can stumble upon items from the early 2000s, making it a fun place for older and younger generations. I found a VHS tape of Mucha Lucha (2002), a kid’s tv show I watched as a little girl – then debated going out and finding a VHS player! A Fulton High graduate and a proud member of the community, Vaughn grew up in Fountain City, and loves to give back wherever she can.
The shop donates annually to a charity of their choice, but also makes a point to help organizations in need. “We’ve done it every year, that started out with 2020, when the children’s hospital couldn’t have their Fantasy of Trees– we called it our Fantastic Trees, and each year we’ve been able to raise about $2,000,” Vaughn shared. The next year Vintage Etc. donated to a hospice home; the year after that, the Grandparents as Parents Program. They sometimes shift from one to another. For instance, while planning to donate to a veteran’s program, they discovered the charity already had its needs filled, so they simply redirected their giving.
But the larger community of Knoxville is not the only community where Vaughn makes an impact. Small-business owners share a community of their own. Prior to Carly opening Mood Ring Vintage, she was a vendor at Vintage Etc., doing what she loved, while simultaneously saving funds to open her own shop, a practice engraved in the community, between both vendors and shop owners. Visiting Mood Ring Vintage, for example, there is a booth for French Fried Vintage, a vintage clothing store with their own location at Emory Place.
In agreement with Carly and Vaughn, April Burger, co-owner of French Fried Vintage shared her thoughts behind the saying ‘community over competition’. “Community over competition is a big deal. I say unity among the vintage community. So, all of us together, and inclusivity about everything,” Burger explained.
Burger feels that community is what helps new shop-owners start out. For her, it was how Gina Alazawi, the owner of Pop Weasel, mentored her a lot in the beginning of her career. Then working with her now business partner Jenny Salata at Planet Xchange. Later having booths at Retrospect Vintage, before finally branching out and opening their own shop together.
French Fried Vintage may or may not be what all the kids are wearing, but that’s the fun of vintage and antiques. No shop is the same, and they all interest different clientele. From vintage apparel, furniture, and decor, and even to books, antique and vintage shops appeal to a lot of different audiences. It’s something that struck Carly while reaching out to stores for the bingo event. It gave her the opportunity to meet owners for the first-time and underscored that even if their stores are nothing alike, they can still support each other.
French Fried Vintage may or may not be what all the kids are wearing, but that’s the fun of vintage and antiques. No shop is the same, and they all interest different clientele. From vintage apparel, furniture, and decor, and even to books, antique and vintage shops appeal to a lot of different audiences. It’s something that struck Carly while reaching out to stores for the bingo event. It gave her the opportunity to meet owners for the first time and underscored that even if their stores are nothing alike, they can still support each other.
If there’s one demographic, they all attract, however, it’s window-shoppers and I can attest to that as a window-shopper myself. This is something that all twenty-five shops are hoping for from the larger community, because it’s a core element to the culture around second-hand apparel and antiques. It’s not as much about the sales as it is just simply having people enjoy exploring the shop, and seeing what it has to offer.
Shops are not styled similarly to department stores. It’s more about having an experience and interacting with the items, feeling moments of nostalgia or inspiration. You can’t just zip in and ask where their scarves are, because you will be directed to three or four different booths of vendors that have scarves. Someone who’s always in a hurry might shake their head at the thought of this, but that’s because they are forgetting an important part of socializing and exploring. Antiques and vintage shops remind us to ‘stop and smell the roses,” but also convey how important community interaction and relationships are.
Watching how shop-owners greeted customers, both newcomers and regulars, really took me back. They easily strike up conversations or ask about family members – talking about all things life. That’s not something you see often standing in the checkout line at Dillard’s or Target, or are even given the time to do, because of the impatient pace of our society.
Even though the bingo event aims to gather support and involvement, the event itself is giving us all so much more in return: The chance to be transported through time, to appreciate and admire life, build relationships, and to learn about our city just a little bit more. In my opinion, this event to encourage people to get out and about and try something new is good-hearted and a great idea– something for both small businesses and the people of Knoxville.
The bingo event starts today and will last throughout the month of February. It’s perfect if you are participating in the First Friday Art Walk. You can catch the Art Walk trolley (free to ride) and visit a lot of the vintage shops in the downtown area. You are able to pick up your one-and-only bingo sheet from any participating location. On the back of the bingo sheet the shops are listed, along with their locations.
All of the owners and workers encourage you to venture out, there are twenty-nine days after all. All completed bingo sheets must be brought to Mood Ring Vintage, and the deadline is February 29th at 6 p.m. Upon turning in a completed bingo sheet, participants will be gifted an exclusive sticker by artist, Maranda Vandergriff, and placed in a drawing for a $50 gift card to any of the twenty-five participating shops. If you have any questions please reach out to Carly Baskette at (865) 766-5999,via Facebook, Instagram, or by visiting Moodringvintage.com. Hope to see you out there!