The Road Not Taken?

A Poem and More…

The Road Not Taken is perhaps my favorite poem by Robert Frost. In addition to its pleasing rhythm and rhyme, I love its ability to create a realistic image of nature and the passing of time, a lifetime, in my mind’s eye.

In the poem Frost extols on how the path he has chosen has played such a significant role in how his life has evolved. It doesn’t appear that he ever looked back, or questioned his choice. In fact, the last three lines of the third stanza say:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken

By the end of the poem, we know for a fact that the narrator, never did revisit his decision and take the other path.

In life we are all forced to make choices, either actively or passively, by omission or by commission. Sometimes we are right, other times we are wrong. Sometimes we have the opportunity for a “do-over” and we are blessed with a viable mid-course correction. Sometimes we simply make our bed and sleep in it.

The Road to Suzanne’s Cottage

Revisiting my path, that is what today’s essay is about. You may call it a mid-course correction, or even a sabbatical. Either way, I am eager to break free from the path I am currently on.

This road began when I was first married, a half-century ago. We scrounged to collect furniture and accessories for our first apartments, and eventually our own home. Eventually we were able to afford “real furniture”, you know, from a real furniture store. Yes, it looked very nice, but…

…but it had no character, no patina, no history. Simply stated it didn’t tell a story and it added no life to our home. So we went back to hunting for stuff that we liked, stuff that was old, that had survived decades of abuse and dozens of children. Yes, we now were buying used stuff because we wanted to, not because we had to.

Need Evolved into Obsession

By the time we had adequately furnished our home, we had frequently visited the Brimfield Flea Market, Hollis Flea Market, Amherst Flea Market, Westford Flea Market, and dozens of Antiques Shops. So we kept finding unique items with which to furnish our home. What had begun as simple bargain hunting evolved into a passion. It was the “thrill of the hunt”.

Now we are at a point in our lives where we are 1) divesting many of our collections, and 2) flipping bargains that still come our way. That is what drove me to becoming a picker/vendor at many antique shops in the region over the years.

Times Change

Over the past decade I have tracked monthly sales and I have been able to predict seasonal trends for my particular area in New England. For example Summer is slow because Antique Mall spaces are competing with Flea Markets, Town Wide Yard Sales, Church Fairs, in addition to the ever-increasing internet channels like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, etc. I call it the Summer Doldrums.

Conversely after Labor Day things begin to improve. When the frost is in the air, and people break out their sweaters and their Uggs, people come out to shop for home. I call it the Nesting Season. People like old wooden furnishing and unique accessories to make their home cozy for the winter months.

November has typically been my best month, December is less, January has a brief spike in sales. Then things slow down as heating bills and credit card bills from the holidays shift household spending priorities.

This cycle has been predictable for me for years, until 2020. The lock downs and all Covid related disruptions rattled any predictability. Things are getting back to normal in the US, but I place little stock in being able to predict what the year 2021 will bring for sales in my Antique Mall shop space.

May 2021 Experiment

During lockdown I began using the Facebook Marketplace with a moderate amount of success, directing all traffic to my shop space at an Antiques Mall. However, over the past six-months shop sales have declined precipitously, for reasons beyond my control. So for the month of May I decided to perform a test.

Instead of directing traffic to the store, I decided to do all Facebook Marketplace “off my tailgate.” My Facebook Marketplace sales would all be for pick-up at a public location, a small shopping plaza near my home. Ironically, the items that sold the quickest had been in my shop for months, with no takers. When I moved them back home, I posted on the Marketplace and sold the items within a week.

After a full month, I compared my receipts. My “Tailgate” money was only $100 less than my fancy shop space. BUT the Tailgate sales had no commissions, fees or overpriced rent. And the Tailgate Sales were only five minutes from home, versus the shop which is 50-minutes away.

I moved many nice pieces for my full asking price, after they had been languishing in the store for months, even with discounted prices. In addition to higher-priced sales, I had No Rent. No Commission. No additional Fees. No driving back and forth for hours every week.

Suzanne’s Road Not Taken -Part II

The character in Robert Frost’s poem did not reconsider his path. He did not go back into the yellow wood to take the first path to see where it goes. But I did. It makes no sense for me to continue down this path. Renting shop space where goods are not moving, is simply paying for overpriced storage.

For the next several months, and possibly beyond, I am relinquishing any rented shop spaces, unearned commissions, incremental fees, etc. Instead I will do all my trading in person. I expect fewer items to be sold, and less gross sales, but this will be offset my reduced expenses and 10-20 hours per week recovered. It seems like a good trade to me. Expect an update as I explore this new road. Trust me to give you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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