My husband and I moved from Colorado to Texas in 2009. Our goal was to open up an antique store and tap into the huge market in this part of the country. When we started Old World Antieks, he was supposed to run the business, and I was going to do what I loved—decorate the store and create vignettes that would inspire people to be creative in their own spaces. What I didn’t count on was a divorce. I went from working at the shop whenever I wanted, doing what I loved, to becoming the owner and operator. I was like a deer in the headlights. All of a sudden, I had twenty people to manage, containers of goods coming in from Europe, payroll and bookkeeping. It was crazy. The first thing I did was run to Target to pick up a daily planner!
I had to learn how the importing process works—taxes, tariffs, etc. I was so far out of my comfort zone and, to be honest, I hated it. I had no choice but to learn and am still learning today. When my husband and I split, our business partner in Holland was shocked. But, he believed in me. We decided to give it a year to see if I really wanted to do this on my own and if I could do it successfully. We have now passed that one year mark and, after his visiting monthly to make sure I was okay and to show how much he believed in me and the business, Old World Antieks is going strong.
Going from passenger to driver was a difficult transition. My husband had always been the face of the company, and I was working behind the scenes so when I took over, many of the people we dealt with didn’t know who I was. It was hard for them to understand why all of a sudden I was the one contacting them and showing up at meetings. I had to introduce myself to long-time customers and assure them that they were still in good hands. It was a hurdle for sure, but people soon felt comfortable with me in the lead role, and I am grateful that they put their trust in me and didn’t head for the hills.
The team we had at the store was also top-notch. My employees and crew make Old World Antieks the fine-tuned machine that it is. There are people that we have employed for years who didn’t run away when the going got tough. They could see that I was scared and that there would be a few kinks to work out, but they knew what they were doing and came alongside me. The first time I sat down with our bookkeeper, I didn’t know how I was going to grasp what it was she was trying to show me.
I can assure you that, when it comes to accounting, there is such a thing as a stupid question! I was so out of my element, but I soon realized that I didn’t need to know everything about bookkeeping. I had a team surrounding me that was each an expert in their field. I trusted them and truly felt like they wanted to see me succeed. While I learned a lot, I knew that I needed to delegate tasks and rely on the strengths of my team.
The hardest thing that I had to deal with after my divorce was the “small town talk.” Where I live, everyone knows everyone else’s business—or at least they think they do. There were a lot of rumors going around about what happened and why we split. In fact, this is still happening, and I find it very difficult. It is hard to hear the perpetual rumors. Not only is my town small but so is the antique world. News and gossip spreads quickly. I am grateful that my husband and I split amicably. There is less fuel for the fire, and I can often just laugh off the crazy things that I hear. That being said, gossip is a slippery slope.
The fact that many people didn’t think I could make it in this business without my husband made me want to prove to them and myself that I could do it. Once my confidence was built up again, we continued to provide the goods and services that Old World Antieks’ customers have grown to expect. I got to travel to Europe on a buying trip that normally would have been on my ex-husband’s to-do list.
It was so much fun to go with one of my employees and search for one-of-a-kind items to ship back to Texas. I continue to participate in two huge local antique shows every year now.
Doing on my own what used to be done with my husband has been both a challenge and a morale booster. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to and that my support system is in place and more than willing to help me.
So much has changed in the last year. With my divorce and my taking over the business, I have been spending a lot more hours at the shop. Setting up the Crock-Pot in the morning and being home to eat dinner with my kids is much more of a priority now that I am a single mom. My kids will be out of the house before I know it, and I don’t want to look back on this time in our lives and have any regrets.
Recently, family life and business have come together in a fun way. My son, Blake, has shown an interest in the business. He loves plants and takes old bowls and containers from the shop to plant succulents and sell at the antique shows. He is learning how to provide a product, sell it and make a profit. In 6th grade, he knows the difference between wholesale and retail. That makes me proud.
Like every mom, I want to be a good example for my kids. I want them to see that you can take the challenges that life throws your way, get knocked down but still land on your feet. I recently told my daughter to make sure that she never has to rely on a man. I want her to be able to stand on her own two feet and make her own way in the world. Her happiness and success shouldn’t depend on another person. She is in control of her destiny.
I would love to take my kids along on my next buying trip to Europe so that they can see firsthand how the items in our shop make their way from a village in Holland to a shipping container that travels across the ocean and ends up in Texas. I want them to see the whole process and have a better understanding of the business. I hope one day to pass Old World Antieks down to the kids. It would be rewarding to see the work that I am doing today provide for future generations.