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Meet Alison Copeland of Virgo Vintage

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alison Copeland.

Alison, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was a teenager I was really into vintage. I got away from it in my 20’s but then circled back around to it when I became a homeowner. I loved finding mid century treasures for my own place at neighborhood yard sales where people had lived in their homes for decades. Later when I hit a financial bump in the road, I realized I could sell pieces from my collection online. So I launched my Etsy shop in 2013 – VirgoVintageInLA. My parents contributed to my inventory by giving me their fabulous mid-century treasures from my childhood home. That’s when I had an aha! moment – It was clear to me that these pieces influenced my sensibility as well as my ability to identify vintage and mid century items, a great trait to have if you’re going to create a business selling vintage.

I have since expanded my sourcing to estate sales, yard sales and thrift stores all over the city. When I walk into an estate sale, I want to respect the former occupant by taking the time to admire their belongings and selecting pieces to be part of Virgo Vintage. It’s then my job to take those things that they can no longer treasure and find new homes for them where they will be cherished for another lifetime. Finding a mid century gem that is filthy from neglect and bringing it back to life by cleaning/restoring it then photographing that gem in its best light, feels great because I know that I’ve saved something of value that might have ended up in a dumpster, something that was previously loved and admired by a person who may no longer be with us.

Doing outdoor markets like Downtown Modernism was the next step and confirmed that I was on the right path. When strangers walk into your booth and compliment your assortment, it’s validation that you’re on the right track. Just this summer I was invited by Robert Berger of Vintage Visions to join him in his showroom in the Culver City Arts District located at 2654 La Cienega Ave. I’m excited to see how the business grows with exposure in a physical space.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’m still struggling! It isn’t easy. No days off. Everyday and sometimes nights, I’m working on some part of the business.

I know what it’s like to have to tear down your own brick and mortar business. It’s devastating and very painful emotionally and financially so I proceeded with caution when it came to Virgo Vintage. I started with my Etsy shop then added a website. All along keeping my day job. I knew once I pulled the Etsy shop together, it reflected a sensibility that was true to me and it felt right.

Sourcing has become very competitive in Los Angeles so getting to yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores on a regular basis is part of the challenge but then getting the treasures you’ve found restored, cleaned up, photographed and posted in a timely manner is also part of the struggle.

What has helped me keep going is the support from my family and friends who’ve assisted with sourcing and become repeat customers. I’m so grateful that I have pals who scout for me and support me by creating new avenues of business.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Virgo Vintage offers mid-century and vintage home decor with a certain point of view influenced by Southern California lifestyle, Scandinavian design, Japanese wood and ceramic pieces as well as other makers from that era. Presenting the shopper with a curated selection of unique small home decor, barware and houseware pieces from the 1950’s to the 1980’s is my goal.

In addition to offering a selection of vintage inventory, I’ve recently augmented the business by taking on larger select mid century consignment pieces for clients who are downsizing or clearing out a departed family member’s home. This adds an element that will help sustain and grow Virgo Vintage.

Another factor for me as a reseller of vintage goods is spending time on the details (a trait of Virgos) to ensure the item is clean and presentable for resale. As the budget permits, I like incorporating branding (i.e., printed labels, shopping bags) but I also rely heavily on reusing and repurposing packaging materials as much as possible for the environment.

Virgo Vintage is also about the customers. Having come from an extensive retail background and being the former owner of a retail store, I am all about customer service. I want my customers to be thrilled with their purchases. I love hearing why someone has selected a particular piece from my shop and where that piece will end up in their home hopefully bringing joy to another generation.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
It’s hard to pinpoint what Los Angeles can do to improve the situation for small retail businesses as we are still dealing with and reeling from COVID-19. But I do hope there is more city and state support for small business in our future especially for those that are eco-friendly.

I am a second-generation Los Angeleno and I know it is a city of infinite possibilities but it can also be a tough town. Many people in my circle of acquaintances have started a new retail venture and failed, myself included, but I feel the vintage market is not going away. It can’t because the mass manufacturing of things is putting a massive strain on our planet and buying vintage/secondhand alleviates some of that pressure. There are so many vintage vendors here in LA who sell quality merchandise and to the younger generations who have never seen mid century vintage; it’s cool, unique and very eco friendly. Don’t buy new when you can buy second or third hand home decor items that far exceed new things in quality and style – right?

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Alison Copeland

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