Thinking back, Rustic Deco is the result of a what I like to call a “ripple seed”. For me, a ripple seed represents a specific event or moment that, though seemingly insignificant at the time, sets off a chain reaction that changes your life.
My family and I had been living in Knoxville, Tennessee for over a year with my days fundamentally consisting of work, and my exposure to the Knoxville area mostly limited to what I saw between home and my workplace. So, one evening during the summer of 2014, I decided to take a drive around Knoxville while my wife and mother in-law were watching a movie. I turned off my GPS and just drove, intentionally taking roads I’d never taken.
It wasn’t long before I found myself driving down Broadway Avenue in Maryville, Tennessee, about 20 miles from my house. I remember seeing dozens of cars parked along the street and the glimpse of a large wooden sign with “Auction Tonight” written on it. Out of curiosity (and boredom), I turned around, parked about a block away, and walked into Terry’s Auction. Given my lifelong love of antiques and collectibles, I found a chair in the back of the room and watched. After about two hours, I decided being out much longer on a Saturday night would likely not be good for my marriage. Just before leaving, I won a Victorian-era porcelain figurine for $12.50 of which I intended to give to my wife as a peace offering should the need arise.
At the time, my Saturday night at Terry’s seemed like one of those insignificant, random, events that disappear into memory come Monday morning. But the excitement of the auction and being around all those antiques didn’t fade, and I found myself back at Terry’s a couple of weekends later. Before I knew it, I had compiled a small collection of “things” from the auction, along with more than one box lot. In short, my childhood passion for antiques and vintage collectibles was re-ignited, and the ripple seed took root.
By autumn, I had amassed more than a few extra collectibles and needed a time-effective way to liquidate my overflow. Having been an eBay Power Seller some years earlier, I knew I didn’t have enough time to do the necessary research and photography to sell eclectic antiques online, so I decided to rent a small booth at a local antique mall. With that decision, the ripple seed sprouted, and on October 13, 2014, I moved into a small booth at the Antique Outlet Mall in Walland, Tennessee.
By the end of 2014, I was able to coax my lovely wife, Laura, into coming with me to a few antique auctions. It wasn’t long before we both were hooked on the thrills of auctions and being able to buy unique vintage items. I clearly remember the Sunday afternoon when we sat at our dining table and brainstormed the name of our little business. We wanted a name that reflected our interests and the style of décor we both liked. The name we came up with was an amalgam combining both style and history. We chose Rustic, because we like the character and uniqueness of rustic décor. We paired it with Deco, because we felt the word deco signified both vintage décor and the Art Deco era.
In March 2015, we received a business license for Rustic Deco, and I expanded my antique booth in Walland. By then, Laura had developed an interest in chalk-painted furniture and began to experiment with different colors. She attempted to sell a few pieces at the antique mall with little success. However, when she stepped into Facebook marketplace, she found almost immediate success. (Laura has always had a great eye for unique designs and patterns.) By creativity repurposing vintage Art Deco and mid-century furniture, she soon became well-known in Knoxville’s Facebook community – and ripple seed sprouted more leaves.
By May 2017, I had three relatively large booths at the Antique Outlet Mall in Walland, and we had purchased a delivery van to support Laura’s furniture sales. She (with a little help from friends) was painting and selling upcycled furniture out of our house at a rate of over 50 pieces a week. Needless to say, our house was always full of furniture and someone was always wielding a paint brush. In June 2017, we took a leap and signed a lease for office and warehouse space at a nearby business park here in Knoxville. We also brought on more help.
Shortly after signing the lease, I started the paperwork to incorporate Rustic Deco with the dream of perpetual growth and continuous expansion. It took some effort to get all the forms and technicalities squared away, but on January 7th, 2018, our business started operating as Rustic Deco Incorporated - our little ripple seed added branches.
By March 2018, I had expanded into a fourth antique booth, and Laura had sold nearly 6,000 pieces of upcycled vintage furniture. Unfortunately, for weeks, we had noticed that the better pieces of unpainted furniture were getting harder and harder to find. Even with multiple pickers searching for us, we accepted that possibility that our supply of high-quality vintage furniture would limit our growth, or even worse, our local sources could dry up altogether. Facing this very real possibility, along with Facebook’s new – more limiting – approach to small business listings, we attended our first furniture tradeshow in High Point, North Carolina in April 2018.
On our drive back from High Point, Laura and I made our biggest business decision to-date. We decided to revamp Rustic Deco’s business model by evolving from a local business to a national business. We also decided to improve and expand our product selections with a firm commitment of delivering high-quality unique furnishings to our customers. We’ve combined our passion for unique historical furnishings with months of research to offer you high-quality furniture and decor from around the world.
We’ve had a lot of fun getting here, but the story of our ripple seed won’t end with the publication of our new online store. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and recommendations about our website and for future products.