There has been an explosion of young entrepreneurs along the West Coast that are not in dot-com or finance. These new waves of young business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers. They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive. “Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……
Fate has a way of introducing you to people you need to have in your life. That is how I felt when I responded to an online ad selling a pair of vintage chairs. Meeting the seller, Dana, was like meeting a long-lost friend…..warm, witty, passionate about design and pretty darn funny. Aside from discovering her love of vintage, I pleasantly surprised she is a purveyor of high-end mid-century art glass. Her shop & showroom is filled with amazing pieces in every hue of the rainbow for rental or sale. She quickly became my defacto source for art glass and the occasional gabfest, so I am excited to share Dana and her shop Zainido Decor with you…..
Why opening up a mid-century store specializing in art glass? There are so many different types of retail stores to open, so what was it about the San Francisco/Bay area landscape that promoted you to open this type shop?
Glass, to me, has always been a stunning component that can be added to any room. Either in groupings or as a statement piece, it does a seductive dance with light that is hard to resist. I am a firm believer that when you specialize in something, your energy is focused on learning and putting out the best products, so as a collector of glass, it just made sense to be a vintage company that specialized in Mid-century Glass and ceramics.
I was actually born in Phoenix, AZ, but raised in the SF Bay Area and I’ve always had a love affair with it. In terms of design & antiques, the Bay Area has always loved me back with opportunities in the diversity of clientele and their vision.
Did you have a previous career before opening up Zainido Vintage? If so, what was it and has it helped you with the current business?
I did. I am an Interior Designer by trade and a lifelong student of history. With these two, they have definitely given me my grounding when it comes to knowing design styles and identification. I feel that being able to identify what period an aspect of design, such as a fabric, a furnishing or an object is from in really important and often overlooked when it comes Interior Design. I think that might be the “purist” in me.
What is it about art glass and mid-century furnishings that interesting to you? What intrinsic or aesthetic qualities about the material/medium drew you to it?
In Mid-century Modern, you had risk that were taken and an innovation with materials and shapes that just doesn’t happen in the present day. I was collecting MCM before I knew what it was called, so I have always gravitated to the style, admittedly over time my style has changed, but it will always be Mid-century Modern. When it comes to glass, there is something so magnificent about a material that you can form with fire, whether it is translucent or opaque that mimics the brilliance of gems.
Where do you get your products from for the store? What criteria do you use to select fabrics to present to your customers?
I source everywhere, even in different cities. Funny enough, its come to a point where, if I walk into an establishment like a thrift shop or antique store, all I see is the glass and go directly to it, like an obsessive tunnel vision. Even, lately when I watch TV, I’m looking at what is behind the acting on the cabinet or the table.
At the center of it all, I am a collector FIRST. I buy based on beauty, what I love, what moves. Over time, as my buying has evolved, it has also stepped up as well. My clientele, know my style, trust it and keep coming back for more. That’s what has worked for me; it’s a sort of consistency.
In your expert opinion, what are you looking at when selecting a piece of vintage art glass? Any tips you can share for determining the age or value of a piece?
I’m always paying attention to colors and color trends, which play a large part in how I buy and how my clients buy. For instance, with Emerald being chosen as this year’s color by Pantone, I have noticed a high demand for greens in general.
Here are some rules I use when searching for that special piece:
- Decanters with flame tip stoppers and apothecaries with the ball handles are not being made in the present day because the stoppers and the lids are too difficult to mass-produce. So if you find a decanter with a flame tip stopper or an apothecary with a lid, chances are this piece is vintage.
- If a piece has a “Pontil” mark (an organic looking button on the bottom of a hand-blown glass piece where the pontil rod was broken off after the piece was finished) on the bottom, then it’s probably older and definitely hand-blown. More recent pieces have this ground down creating a circular carved out effect on the bottom. There are some exceptions though.
- There are some shapes and textures in vintage glass that aren’t being reproduced today as well, for instance, the optic pattern that is often seen in goblets and decanters, the linear optic pattern that can be seen in goblets and apothecaries are great indications of an older piece. Additionally while some shapes are always around others have remained in the past giving them a special home in the mid-century cabinet.
Like myself, you are a minority business owner in the rather competitive world of design. Do you think your experiences as an African-American woman have influenced your design aesthetic and how you do business?
Definitely. As a design student, I sought out mentors in the design industry and never had one. So I promised myself that when I was finally out there as a professional, I would do all I could to nurture up and coming minority designers and retailers that wanted help.
As a business owner, I also try to embrace other minority businesses in the industry because I do feel that they often don’t get the exposure in the design industry.
So I have to ask, where did the name of your shop Zainido Decor come from?
I plead the fifth. Let’s just say, when you are last on a list, you have the last word. Wink.
If money was no object, is there a piece of art glass or mid-century jewel that you would go out and buy for yourself?
It would have to be a structure. There’s a house that I’m always walking through in my dreams that is the perfect combination of about 6 famous houses. So my answer would be, I would build the most amazing house & then put all my pretties in it!
You opened up what many would say is a non-traditional retail store and have succeeded quite well with it. What piece of advice would you give to a budding retailer who is looking to open up his or her own store?
I would tell them 5 things-
- Do it, Do it, Do it. Don’t let anyone tell you how hard it is, how much money you need or that you will fail. If it is your passion you will do well.
- Keep your overhead extremely low. The money going out of your business should be very well accounted for.
- Start small, meaning, you can always find a bigger space, when you need It. You can always hire some help, when you need it & etc. Its harder to scale down then to scale up.
- Put on a good face at all hours. If you have a display window in your space, make sure it is a showstopper 24 hours a day. Install good lighting so it sparkles at night. You’d be surprised how many people shop your store just by walking by.
- Rotate, Rotate, Rotate your merchandise. Create a different vignette every week. It’s not mandatory to constantly buy new merchandise, especially if its slow. Give you customers a new way to see it.
You are also a Mom to a beautiful daughter who is now watching her home run a successful design business. Do you see her taking the reigns at some point and helping with the family business? If so, what is the one thing you will tell her that you wish someone had told you about design?
I would love it if she decided to go into the design business. She loves “mommy’s glass”, all the colors and going to the flea markets with me. I would probably tell her to walk to the beat of her own drum and follow her instincts after school. There is no set program or directive that design students need to take after they graduate and I believe being young with vision is an essential key to happiness and success. Which is exactly what I did!
THANK YOU Dana! I love Dana’s approach to her business as well as the sage bits of advice she is dropping for wannabe retailers. As a new shop owner, some of these points hit home for me and are definitely now burned into my psyche. To see more of Dana’s art glass and other mid-century finds she has for sale and rent, visit Zainido Decor!