PART TWO: HOW STARS GOT STARTED
In the three years that four of us–Darwin, Brent, Marie and I– produced the “Magic” shows, we learned a great deal. We found we knew how to promote, run the shows in a business-like way, the value of organization, the importance of establishing trust and keeping our word, and developing a prospect list and a customer mailing list. We did all the work ourselves, and like all people who love what they do, the hard work for us was a necessary part of seeing our visions come true.
We had carved out an office in the back of Darwin’s ETC Antique Shop on Sellwood row and would meet weekly after work to plan our next shows. In 1990, Tom Brown, whose family owned quite a string of property along SE Milwaukie Avenue approached us with an idea. He had a vacant building on the corner of Milwaukie and Rural that had housed the Coronet Five and Dime Store. He thought it would be ideal for an antique mall and that the four of us could start one.
There were one or two antique malls in Portland at that time, and actually we had all had spaces in a mall in Aurora so we had an idea of how they worked. But this was a risk–first of all, we all had other jobs and secondly, this was signing a lease and remodeling an empty space. We liked the prospect of a more permanent business, but we had to think hard about the realities.
Thinking back, our enthusiasm and belief in ourselves and the huge pool of prospective antique dealers in the area gave us the impetus to take the leap into the great unknown. Tom Brown helped us find the man power we needed to bring the building up to snuff. Our budget was limited and we did much of work ourselves–painting walls and even the floors.
Coming up with a good name was a challenge. We had several ideas for names–the most practical was the Sellwood-Moreland Antique Mall. Brent worked up the graphics for several names and we called in dealers to give us input. My favorite was “STARS Antique Mall” (remember in our show advertising how we called our dealers “our Stars”). Anyway, Stars won out, and we played it to the hilt using stars in our decor, advertising, signs, etc.
We hired two employees, Linda Sievers, who worked for us for many years, and Sue Martinson (who is still with us as many of you know), and the four of us would take turns filling shifts. Portland was so ready for a mall like Stars–one that was clean, and well lit, filled with all kinds of merchandise–some serious and some funky and fun. It wasn’t long before we had rented all the spaces and business kept increasing.
Eventually, we all quit our other jobs, and took another leap and bought the building across the street for a second mall. We called this one Stars and Splendid Antique Mall (our corporate name was Stars and Splendid Partners), and I can only say that the feeling we all had to see the sign painted on our new building was a major life event for the four of us.
Long story short, we went on to open a mall in Northwest Portland called Stars Northwest and another on Milwaukie Avenue which we called …more Stars. By that time, we had managers and about 25 employees and were still doing shows. Twelve years ago, we lost our beloved partner, Marie Hickey, to breast cancer. Longtime dealers, employees and customers still remember Marie with smiles on their faces at her colorful antics, and, of course, we will never forget her. Our first lesson in “Life goes on…it just isn’t quite the same”.
When their leases ran out, we dropped the Stars Northwest store and more Stars to concentrate on the two stores left. We still have customers who bemoan the closing of the other stores, but we found that careful management of the two stores across the street from each other is a better use of everyone’s time.
Now it is approaching June 2010–twenty years later and time for an anniversary celebration. The Milwaukie Avenue neighborhood has grown to be a vibrant shopping and dining location. The memories of these years are also vibrant-filled with excitement, humor, challenges to be met, oozing with the creativity of our dealers, the fun of seeing our web site come to life and always, always, the faces of all involved–dealers, employees, and customers.
I have many stories still in my head about events and happenings in the past twenty years. Sometimes I think it might make a great television mini-series with plenty of drama, comedy, and yes, even tragedy (one example…all of us continuing to work quietly and sadly the evening of September 11, 2001).
If I do this, I promise to change all the names of those mentioned (just kidding).
I have two quotes I have found (after all, I can’t let you off without a quote or two)that I think apply here and to any of you out there who have a dream….
“Leap and the net will appear.”
“Doing you best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
And I sign off on this day with much gratitude and appreciation to all…