Teri AscoleseBack in 1976 my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to go to Europe. I remember that it was during the bicentennial. We sold all our trinkets and things that we had picked up at estate sales, yard sales and flea markets. We made enough money to buy a one way ticket to Luxembourg. We managed by going country to country, buying at flea markets, and selling at the flea markets in the next country. So that was kind of our M.O. the whole time - we ended up staying for six months! It was really interesting and we met lots of fun people.

After that, I ended up living in Spain for a while. Hawaiian shirts were very popular at the time, so I would fly back to California and buy Hawaiian shirts, then fly back to Europe to sell them. I’ve always had a love for antique fabric and textiles, and I ended up importing a lot of antique fabric from Europe.

I ran into a friend that was opening an antique co-op here in Santa Barbara called Tommy’s Old Time Mercantile. It was like an old time ice cream parlor that they turned into one of the first antique malls. A lady in there had a lot of dolls, my friend had a lot of old advertising, and I had a rack of antique clothes. Eventually my clothes kept selling and getting more popular, and they started to take up more floorspace in the store. It ended up turning into a vintage clothing store. When the store lease came up for renewal, my father offered to help me go out on my own. So I left the store. Then my father told me I didn't need any help, that I could do it on my own. He never gave me a dime - can you believe that? It’s true!

So I started working out of my home. I’d work flea markets in Los Angeles and at the Rose Bowl, always meeting new people - buying, selling, buying more, selling more. Eventually my old partners at the store ended up closing. We all went our separate ways, and here I am still doing it! I guess my father was right...

So here I am 30 years later. I don’t buy as much in California as I used to. Now I have to travel the United States to find the good stuff. For example, I usually travel to the Midwest every two months on a buying trip. It is a lot of traveling, and good antique fabric is getting harder to come by. So when I get a call to come check something out, I have to go! If I don’t, it’s lost to someone else forever. But I have been doing this for a long time. I try to stay loyal to everyone I do business with - I show up, and I buy. You have to be consistent to stay in this business. It’s worked out well for me. I have some really nice people that I’ve worked with for years all over the country, as well as people here in Santa Barbara. I’ve really been blessed and lucky! I’ve met some amazing people - fun, creative - definitely artistic. Not your run of the mill job with people doing their 9-5’s. It’s something people do out of passion.

Hollywood does come knocking on my door. A lot of fashion designers are inspired by the vintage patterns and designs and come to me for help. Movie and TV people also ask me for help. It’s cool to watch award shows, and see my clients names come up, knowing I’m a part of that! Celebrities and stylists also come to me. There are also people who collect or are looking for really specific things. If I don’t have it, I have no problem steering them to someone that might help from my hefty Rolodex. I think it’s good for all of us - help each other out. I have to say I still like what I do, and that’s important.

I’m crazy-busy at the shows. I try to keep the prices down, which can sometimes be a challenge. I do seem to draw a crowd, probably because I like to turn things over - there is always lots of new stuff for you to find. I don’t care about making the last dollar on stuff. People can buy from me and resell - that’s fine by me. I get over 50 boxes of fabric a month coming in - at around 50 pounds each! So its all about volume for me.

It’s getting harder and harder to find quality textiles. I do stare at my hanky's for example, and say thank you for being so plentiful and steady sellers! They are staples, as are printed tablecloths - they always sell. I even keep the little bits and pieces - buttons, hats, trimming - there are always people asking for help restoring a piece of clothing. Other things come and go, and vintage clothes are picking up again. It’s an ever changing business.

I sell at shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Pasadena. I work out of my house in Santa Barbara by appointment. I also do a lot of mail order for people I’ve established a working relationship with. I have an Ebay store that stocks one of a kind items, and hard to find things. I have a website that is kind of my headquarters. It lists all my shows and locations, and links to my Ebay items. It contains a web store showcasing my higher end items and collectables. You will also find pre-show deals there too. The website has really opened me up for international business - once again. I guess you can say I have come full circle!