18 July 2012

Vintage Shopkeeper.... Hello Amanda

Welcome to the first in a long series of posts that spotlight people who are living their truth.  People who have discovered a love of vintage and, although some may also have other jobs, they spend their free time cultivating their interest in vintage finds, whether it be home decor, clothing or more, and have turned it into a business.  A business through which they are able to bring these finds to the world.

Today's seller is a woman who began selling vintage in 2010 on etsy.  Her shop is always full of vintage finds ranging from rustic to 70s retro.  Below is an interview with Amanda from Bloomfield, NJ:

Amanda Kartanowicz

Start by telling everyone about yourself.
My name is Amanda, I am 30 years old, I live in northern New Jersey and am a middle school French teacher during the week.  On the weekends though, I hunt for vintage items and spend my time cleaning, restoring, photographing and selling my finds on etsy.   

What started you on your path to becoming a vintage seller?  How did you arrive at the name for your shop?
I can remember being 12 years old, my older sister Natalie just old enough to drive, and us driving around our neighborhood following signs to any garage sales, heading to the Salvation Army (hoping it was a sale day) and being intrigued by everything we would find.  Why were the sayings on a t-shirt from the 70s so much funnier than our t-shirts?  Why were those shades of retro brown and orange so much cooler than our browns and oranges?  There are photos of me at 17 in my bedroom sitting in a huge, over-sized velvety armchair covered with brown and orange flowers.  My room was a mix of furniture my mother had picked out when I was young and furniture I had added in from the Salvation Army along the way.  Other photos remind me that I went through a phase where every Halloween I simply wore the craziest, brightest vintage dress I could find.  I wore a uniform in high school and we were allowed to wear blazers, so I of course wore a brown velvet blazer from the Salvo and when we had dress down days I took full advantage and often looked like I was ready to go disco dancing in an ensemble of polyester.  When I look at photos like these and think back, I realize how early on my fascination with vintage began, as well as how long ago I began selling things online.
I opened my ebay account in 1998, which makes me 17 years old when I first began selling things here and there.  It has been a long evolution to a site like etsy and I love it!  The story of my shop name is less interesting though, APK being my initials, I added vintage and handmade to form the names of my two shops.  I wanted a relationship between the two; something that would show that they were both owned by the same seller and a buyer could expect the same level of customer service at each shop.

How has your shop evolved over the years?  What do you envision for your shop as it continues its evolution?I would say that the overall look of my shop has changed quite a bit since the beginning.  My photos are completely different and I am so much better at tagging items with search terms that will help a buyer find me.  My items have changed a bit as well as I learned what was way too difficult to ship or what items didn’t generate much love.  I hope that in the future, although some things are bound to change and evolve, that my shop always maintains its soul.  No matter what new photography style I might attempt or if my shop begins to focus on only home décor or only clothing.  I want to own everything I sell and I think it should always stay that way.    

Thinking as a shop owner and looking back on your early days, were there any missteps?  
My original shop name was definitely a misstep!  I opened my etsy account to purchase something and used my email address as my username.  Within a month I began selling and realized I couldn’t change my shop name.  For over a year my name was rutabagasix, my email address.  There was nothing about it though that rolled off the tongue or made you think of awesome vintage finds.  Etsy has since changed their policy and I was able to change my shop name to something much more logical…phew!  

What advice would you give to someone thinking of opening an online shop?
My best advice is to always make or sell what you love.  There were times in the beginning where I was picking up items that I “thought” people would like.  Items that may not have necessarily been my taste but I could see people wanting it for themselves.  The items that I bought and sold with this assumption would sometimes take over a year to sell.  Whereas when I choose things that I personally love, they sell much more quickly.  You’ll find that you are able to describe it better, you’ll enjoy doing the research for the item and lovingly take every photograph.    

What are some of your favorite places to shop for vintage finds?  Feel free to share names of great shops, flea markets, etc.
I love going to estate sales for most of my vintage items.  I love the thrill of searching through an entire sale, digging to the bottom of each box, or going to the far corner of the attic and blowing the dust off to reveal something amazing.  I also sell at several markets with my sister Natalie and the Brooklyn Flea in New York and Clover Market in Ardmore, Pennsylvania are our favorites.  Walking to get a coffee always takes way too long because I am drawn to each booth I pass…

Storage of vintage items that are waiting to be sold can quickly overwhelm a seller’s personal space when they sell from their own home.  How do you make it work for you so ti doesn’t take over your personal space?
Well, I would say my personal space is often taken over by my items!  I live in a one bedroom condominium with garage and basement storage that are always on the verge of overflowing.  It can be difficult but I am often reorganizing, rearranging and finding better ways to store everything.  Inevitably, the initial process, once I bring new items home, always takes over the apartment.  As we speak, I have silverware in the sink to polish, a newly cleaned vintage dress air drying, a pile of things ready for photos and a half-dressed mannequin staring at me from the middle of my bedroom.  To me, the restoration process is one of the most exciting and seeing something come back to life and revealing the final product makes it worthwhile.  And I have been known to keep a vase or two around the place until it sells.  

What era or style are you particularly drawn to?  Why do you think that is?
This is a difficult question to answer because I find myself drawn to so many!  In any given room you can find something mid-century modern, rustic, or from the 70s.  I may wear a brand new outfit but put on a vintage hat from the 50s, or accessorize with a scarf or some retro jewelry.  I drive a new car and use vintage handmade afghans of grandma squares as seat covers.  I guess if it catches my eye and I think something is interesting or beautiful, it doesn’t matter what era it’s from, I’ll find a way to make it work!

Why do you think this love of vintage is so universal?  What do you think it is that draws so many of us in?
There are so many answers to this question!  I think that people are able to see the styles, fads, and decor of the past and see the relationship between something they see in a high-end catalogue of today and how they are obviously based on fashions and decorating ideas of the past.  When faced with a viable option for owning something that is original and not reproduced for the mass market by machine, people will prefer the original.  I would much rather my chips and nicks and rust caked on after 60 years of living than something made to “look” rustic.
Nostalgia too must play an important role.  A toy that reminds you of your childhood, a vase your great aunt had or a dress just like the one your mother wore.  When something can transport you back to a happy time in your life you don’t want to lose it.  Now, you can wear that dress, or look up to your mantle and think of your aunt or give that toy to your own child.
And lastly, I think we all have a glamorous view of the past.  I am constantly finding myself thinking things like: “Why don’t men wear hats anymore?”  “Dresses in the twenties were amazing.”  and “Things were made so much better back then!”  There was art in everything, value placed on the craftsmanship of something and an attention to detail that is difficult to find anymore.

Where can everyone find you?

On etsy…
My vintage shop: apkvintage.etsy.com
And my handmade shop: apkhandmade.etsy.com

On twitter...


  1. Thank you so very much for the feature!! You have a great blog and I'm honored!!

  2. I so enjoyed meeting Amanda from AKPVintage. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to get aquainted with each other trough your blog!

  3. Great post! I love reading about vintage sellers - how they started, what they like etc. Nice to meet you, Amanda! :)


  4. Loved reading about Amanda! It is so nice to get to know other sellers on Etsy.