Donna Fink of Carolinabluelady
When Donna Fink moved to North Carolina 10 years ago, she became enchanted by the deep-blue skies, the serene beaches and the uniquely-Southern gentility of the local ladies. So much so, that she named her store after the warm, welcoming atmosphere that captivated her imagination.
As the owner of Carolinabluelady Vintage Collectibles on Auctiva Commerce, Fink says she now strives to portray those same Southern charms that attracted her, and instill a sense of enjoyment and relaxation to all who visit her virtual store.
"Lots of people go into brick-and-mortar antique shops just to browse, and it's sort of like shell collecting," she explains. "You can spend hours walking the beach, looking for shells. It's peaceful and relaxing, and there's a joyful moment when you find something you didn't expect to find. I want my store to give people that same kind of feeling."
Fink has long had a fascination for carnival glass and Greentown glass (from her hometown of Greentown, Ind.), which she's been collecting since she was a teen. It was her interest in collecting Early American Pressed Glass that originally led her to eBay—first as a buyer, and later as a seller.
"At one point, I realized I was buying more than I should be, so I started selling my collections on eBay," she says.
Using Auctiva's templates and easy-to-use eBay listing tools, Fink quickly became a veteran seller and began bonding with her buyers and other collectors through online discussion groups. She recently joined the Antiques, Vintage & Collectibles Online Sellers Association and looks forward to learning and contributing to that forum.
It's those personal connections that are among the most rewarding aspects of selling online, she says. And the community aspect of Auctiva continues to be one of her favorite features.
"You start meeting other collectors and building relationships with other online sellers," she says. "Building our Auctiva Commerce Stores was a first for most of us. And most of us don't have a lot of computer knowledge. The help we have received from each other has been invaluable."
I think the people that run Auctiva Commerce really do care and want the merchants to succeed
A place to grow
When Auctiva Commerce launched earlier this year, Fink was excited about having another selling alternative, and began introducing fixed-price inventory at Carolinabluelady Vintage Collectibles. About the same time, she also opened storefronts on eCrater and buyitsellit, where she offers similar stock.
"I think Auctiva Commerce is going to be a good platform," she says. "The people that run it really do care and want the merchants to succeed," she says. "With the wide variety of merchandise and various types of stores that have been started, there are many sellers with different needs—and I don't think it was originally intended for people like me who sell one-of-a-kind items. But they haven't turned anyone away just because they're not selling 10 million cups or something. So I think that's good. And with help from the community, I plan on sticking with it."
She's currently working full time outside the home but eventually hopes to grow her online sales into a more stable source of income. She's set up with that goal in mind, with a business tax number and shipping scales to do all her packing and shipping from home.
To market her site, she sends fliers and coupons to customers, stays active with the collectors' group and is thinking about drumming up local business by posting ads on the public bulletin boards around town.
"I try not to spend any money doing this," she quips. "I'm all for free advertising."
Fink describes her Auctiva Commerce store setup as "pretty simplified," since she's not what she considers computer savvy.
"I sold a couple of items, and had no problems as far as shipping or notifications, so I'm not changing a thing!" she laughs. "The only thing I'm doing now is adding inventory."
Going through the junk to try to uncover the good stuff is quite entertaining
Finding new inventory should be no problem for quite a while. Though many of her own collections have since been sold, Fink has been busy researching and listing pieces her mother collected her whole life, until she passed away last year. A few times a year, she treks to Indiana to help her siblings dig through the stacks and stacks of items that were purchased at auctions over the years—many of them still in the boxes they came home in.
Fink currently has about 340 items listed online—but she has at least that much left sitting in her home office. And there are many more rooms full of stuff to sift through at her mother's house.
Though not necessarily a connoisseur, her mother managed to accumulate quite a few meaningful pieces.
"She bought anything she thought was pretty, and she never threw anything away," Fink muses. "She always said we'd have a lot of fun going through her stuff, and my sister and I would just look at each other and say, 'No, we won't.' But we are having fun going through her stuff! Going through the junk to try to uncover the good stuff is quite entertaining."
On her first trip, Fink recalls bringing back 25 boxes full of brand new, unopened Avon products. "Luckily, she saved all the brochures," she says. "Because if I put something up for sale, I like to know who made it and when it was made. I think the history of the old glass companies and potteries is very interesting, and just makes the item that much more special.
"Most of what I sell is from the good old USA, including new items from several North Carolina potteries in the Seagrove area, and Joe Rice art glass from the House of Glass in Elwood, Ind.," Fink explains.
"I haven't come across anything of my mother's yet that was of really high value," she continues. "But there was a Northwood Glass pitcher with six tumblers; it was clear with gold flashing. I had a hard time finding out what the pattern was, but I eventually found it in my carnival glass book. The lady who bought the tumblers actually bought it for the Northwood Gallery at the Oglebay Institute Glass Museum in Wheeling, W. Va. So I thought that was cool."
Stop in and browse Fink's listings at Carolinabluelady Vintage Collectibles. You never know what you might find.