By Judi Brinegar The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.
The owners of Blackbird Vintage recently launched a crowdfunding project via Kickstarter to fund a non-fiction travel book, with the goal of finding the best vintage junk and, in their own words, documenting "every kitschy moment!"
Business partners Susan Reynolds and Rebekah Bunting have owned the vintage shop in downtown Liberty for a year, and have operated an online shop on Etsy.com for almost five years.
Both Reynolds, a Montgomery County native, and Bunting, a native of Randolph County, live in Asheboro. They are probably most known for designing the display windows for Collector's Antique Mall on Sunset Avenue, which they have done for the past nine years.
"The Blackbird Girls," as they are called, love to travel and to find unique "junk" along the way. They decided to turn their love of the hunt into a travel book that explores American Vintage. Their hope is to spend several weeks on the road, traveling to 26 states, stopping at vintage hotels and travel sites, as well as thrift, vintage and antique stores.
"Rebekah teaches at Montgomery Community College (biology and anatomy) and I teach interior design part-time at Randolph Community College," Reynolds said. "We never have time off together, but this summer we are both off. It is getting so hard to get off at the same time and we've always wanted to write a book. We talked about what we wanted to do and have started planning our trip."
The book will have fun stories, photographs, and travel and vintage shopping tips and tricks. The Kickstarter pledges they receive will assist in publishing the book, to be available in e-book format for Kindle and as a full color paperback book.
As they travel and pick up vintage items along the way, the women will make note of the how-to-do and how-to-avoid tips that will make their way into the book.
"Every three days or so, we will ship what we buy to her mom's house," Bunting said. "One time, we had to unload the car to get to the tire-changing kit, because I knew there was a screwdriver in there. I needed the screwdriver to take apart something we bought so it would fit in the car.
"We can fill up a car in a day!"
What are the collectibles that Reynolds and Bunting keep their eyes peeled for?
"Our love tends to be the vintage clothes," Reynolds said about the 1920s-1980s clothing and other vintage ware they collect.
"When we go, we plan, but kind of fly by the seat of our pants. We plan our route, then Google search for places to stop at. Thrift shops tend to be our favorite."
What are their best finds?
Reynolds said that a raccoon fur coat they stumbled on ended up being a real treasure.
"We found this raccoon fur coat at a thrift shop and it was marked $40," she said. "The owner said that that was not their price, that the coat was actually $20. We knew there was a little shirt under it, and when I looked at it later, it was a 1950s Christian Dior silk shirt. We had just been talking about how we needed to find some 1950s Christian Dior and there it was!
"I also found a stash of 1970s Gucci scarves and a Hermes scarf at a Salvation Army shop for $15 and have made over $400 on them so far."
Reynolds said that 98 percent of the items they collect and resell are on Etsy, an online e-commerce website that focuses on handmade or vintage items and supplies. Of those sales, about 70 percent of the items are purchased by buyers in California. Some have even been purchased for use in movies and television shows.
"Etsy is a really good way for small businesses to get traffic online," Reynolds added. "We just sold 60 pieces for a pilot on ABC called 'The Broad Squad.' It is set in 1978 and is a drama about an all-woman detective squad, the first four women ever to graduate from Boston's Police Academy.
"It's so much cheaper for them to buy from us than trying to recreate the clothes." Ready to hit the road
According to their Kickstarter page, Blackbird Vintage has always wanted to do a cross-country road trip.
"We've always wanted to take a cross-country road trip, doing our three favorite things: Buying vintage junk, visiting the kitschy delights that make America great,and telling stories about our travels.
"If we don't do this now, we may never get another chance to really do it right. We'll start in North Carolina (our home base) and drive until we simply have to stop at a thrift store. We'll find junk, take pictures, get back in the car and head west some more. There will be many states and a whole lotta great vintage stops along the way. We'll even stay in the cheesiest hotels we can find, eat in 50-year-old diners and take pictures at the weirdest landmarks that we come across.
"Then, we'll put all of that greatness in a book, complete with color photographs and top secret tips about where you can go to find that thing that you never knew you always wanted." --- The Blackbird Vintage Kickstarter project pledge window is open through June 30, with pledges starting at $10. Rewards for different levels of pledging are explained on the Kickstarter site, www.kickstarter.com/projects/38570933/american-vintage-a-road-trip-with-.... The goal for the travel book project is $4,500. Blackbird Vintage is located at 122 W. Swannanoa Ave., Liberty, and blackbirdantiquesnc on Etsy.