Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet Chris Davidson, the PDX Picker

Meet Chris Davidson, aka PDX Picker. Chris and his wife Heather (remember her Favorite Find last week?) live in Portland and both buy/sell vintage items. When I found Chris' blog, I couldn't believe my eyes. There is such a wealth of vintage items in Portland and Chris finds amazing furniture and housewares to resell. He had posted photos of their home, where they stage many of their items, and I had to find out more about his business. Read on to learn more (and be inspired)!

You identified a niche and an opportunity and jumped on it. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the re-selling business.

I got into the reselling business while running a furniture delivery company. On slow days I would check Craigslist for furniture that was 0%-10% of the original price and then sell it for around 33% of the original price. After a while I noticed that Mid Century pieces would sell much faster and for more money than furniture from other eras. Along the way I have fallen in love with modern design. I love filling my home with beautiful modern pieces just as much as I love selling them.

Where all do you sell your finds?

Locally I sell my finds on Craigslist, at the Portland Flea, and street fairs. Online I sell my pieces on Etsy.

Tell us more about your "home store." How does that work? Do you sell through Craigslist? What all is involved?

My wife and I recently moved into a funky house in NE Portland. The house has been added on to numerous times. As a result it has three living rooms. I stage the first two rooms with my sale pieces and we use the third living room as our personal space. Usually the pieces in the third living room are not for sale but I have been know to sell my personal items if the price is right. So far I have sold all of the items out of my home on Craigslist, but we may also do some sort of open house event in the future.

You also sell to local shops. How did you connect with them?

Portland has the most vintage shops of any city in the U.S. Vintage shops rely on pickers to stock a portion of their inventory. When I moved to Portland I visited each shop and introduced myself and asked if they buy from pickers. I then identified each shop's individual style. When I find a piece that I want to sell to a shop I can identify which shop will most likely buy it. Selling to shops has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you can sell a piece the very same day you pick it up. The disadvantage is that you can only expect to get 25%-33% of their retail price. I primarily sell directly to shops when I have a duplicate of any item or if it is obscure and would take me a long time to sell myself.

What is your favorite item you've found?

It is very difficult to narrow it down to one favorite item. Currently my favorite item in my home is my Style House Starburst Clock. I am hoping to someday find a George Nelson clock but it will do for now. I also love to find Danish lounge chairs. They have very cool lines and always sell very fast.

What item has produced your biggest profit margin?

I have made $400 on several items lately. Recently I bought an industrial clothes basket for 75 cents and sold it for $125. It made me feel clever to find such a valuable piece at such a low price.

What advice do you have for people who want to buy/sell vintage?

Here are a few rules that I have for myself
  1. Know what you are looking for!!! If you buy items on a whim, you may end up with a house full of stuff no one wants. Educate yourself by reading blogs and magazines, and visit shops to find out what is selling.
  2. Stick to the Mid Century Era (1958-1963) Later items often have the same look but are made of inferior materials or have unnecessary detailing.
  3. NEVER buy anything with a formica top.
  4. Always check for tags and brands. Designer pieces are much more valuable and easier to research.
  5. Check thoroughly for damage. Some pieces look very cool but have hidden damage that destroys their value.
  6. Take a gamble for under $50. Occasionally a piece catches my eye that I know nothing about. If the price is right I will roll the dice on it. I have gotten lucky quite a few times. If it turns out not to be as valuable as you thought you can usually sell it for what you got it for.
Chris, thank you so much for sharing with us! I am so inspired by your business!

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  1. great post jamie! Very cool stuff Chris and Heather have!

  2. Wow! That brown leather chair was a total find! I'm kind of coveting the metal drawers, too.


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