'Vintage Sisters' turn hobby into Mission Street sales venture

Adam Niemi/Staff Photographer Carol Burnett works at Vintage Sisters Antique Shop, 806 S. Mission St. on Tuesday. She is a co-owner of the store with her sister, Pat.

Amid the wigs and delicate china, two sisters turned what was once a hobby into an innovative business selling aged and sometimes historic materials.

For a year now, Carol and Patricia Burdell have been selling antiques out of their shop, Vintage Sisters, 806 S. Mission St.

“We opened it in November of last year, which had more space than the first booth at the Antique Mall,” Carol said.

The sisters decided to set themselves apart from the rest of the antique shops in town by selling on consignment with no rent and a low-commission percentage.

Originally, the two were dealers at St. Germain Antiques, 319 N. Mission St., but they wanted a shop of their own.

“We started the business because we have done openings and were hoping for something other than a hobby,” said Patricia, who is also an associate professor in teacher education and professional development at Central Michigan University. “When we were in the other malls, we saw there was a market for someone who did research for someone else.”

Because of the great deals the sisters have on consignments, they have consignors that used to work in antique malls like them, they said.

“Our consignors don’t pay until something sells,” Carol said. “There is no rent for holding something, so we don’t charge for space.”

Another tool they are using to help separate themselves from others is through the use of eBay.

“It gets it around the world, and we are trying to link it to our website with that,” Patricia said. “There have been a lot of high-end items sold that way.”

Karen Schmidt, Weidman resident and antique enthusiast since the 1990s, said the use of the Internet for stores like these is what sets them apart and draws more customers in.

“The biggest difference is the computer,” Schmidt said. "I’m not computer savvy, but they sell stuff over the Internet, and when the economy is good, then it is very successful.”

Schmidt said she mainly deals in glass and china and frequently does business with Vintage Sisters. One thing she has always noticed is Carol in the shop hard at work.

Along with items they sell, the two sisters have a certificate of authenticity when it comes to their work ethic.

“It’s a very small antique store; they sell a lot of jewelry, and it’s unique,” Schmidt said. “It’s been working out just fine. I’m dealing in three shops, and I’m doing the best in there."

Yet, the sisters use this space to their advantage and hardly ever turn anyone down.

There are bits and pieces of Mount Pleasant scattered all over the store ranging from Native American artwork and jewelry from the 1950s to large silver spoons that hang next to one another on the wall in a small wooden rack.

Carol said she remembered someone who had wanted to sell an old dentist chair that was used to hold people down when their teeth were being pulled.

“I told them to bring it in around Halloween and it might sell because it was kind of scary-looking,” Carol laughed. “It’s really interesting all of the items people bring in.”


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