BLOOMINGTON — Antique stores used to be known as the place where older generations shopped for floral china and dusty relics. Now, grandma is hunting for treasures alongside young adults.
Lianna Bankord, 25, of Bloomington, was introduced to antique stores against her will.
"I was dragged along by my parents when I was young. I thought it was boring because I wasn't allowed to touch anything," she said. "Now I go to antique stores with friends and family as a fun thing to do for an afternoon."
Bankord enjoys searching for one-of-a-kind items and pieces to make her own.
"I like to find things I can repaint and repurpose," said Bankord. "I would rather go to an antique store instead of a furniture store like IKEA because I can find more unique pieces with character and personality."
Having recently moved into her own apartment, Bankord has utilized antique stores to decorate her new space with a vintage flair. One of her favorite finds has been an orange area rug.
“It brings lots of compliments from my friends,” she said.
Alley Kats Antiques and Alley Kats Annix at 401 S. Center St. in downtown Bloomington, is a personal favorite of Bankord's. The stores sells an eclectic mix of antiques, vintage and retro items.
JE Meyers is the owner of Alley Kats. She understands that most antique fans start at a young age.
“Our store is child- and pet-friendly. We don't want children to be afraid of touching and experiencing, so we teach them how to properly handle breakable things,” Meyers said. “It's like an interactive museum.”
Over more than 10 years in the antique business she has watched the market shift from primarily middle-aged empty nesters to 20-somethings starting a family.
“When I owned my first store, younger folk were not our bread and butter. If a young person walked in, it was a shock,” she said. “Today, they make up 40 to 50 percent of our audience.”
At Alley Kats, Meyers notices that shoppers in their 20s and 30s gravitate toward old furniture, cameras, Pyrex dishes, bar ware, books and artwork. She believes that young people are looking for three things: value in buying secondhand, the satisfaction of re-purposing items and the hunt for “quality stuff that grandma had.”
“Younger people want old solid furniture, not particleboard,” said Meyers. “They want Art Deco lines or a '50s retro vibe. They aren't afraid to paint it, refinish it and make it their own.”
She has found that utilizing Facebook has brought her closer to younger customers.
“We make announcements and sell things on our Facebook page,” she said. “I even recognize some shoppers because I see them ‘like’ or comment frequently on our posts, which instills a sense of community.”
Other antique stores in the area have discovered the benefit of a Web presence.
Ryan Tauscher is the 27-year-old owner of BloNo Trade Co. at 1319 W. Market St. in Bloomington. The store is a buy-sale-trade shop with antiques, collectibles, furniture, video games and oddities. Tauscher sells many items through the store's website or on Craigslist.
“Selling items online has been very helpful,” said Tauscher. “I think it makes people more comfortable because they can shop at home. Plus, everyone in the younger age group is online.”
He said 40 percent of his customers are under the age of 35 and are usually college students.
“When I opened the store in 2013, my goal was to bring antiques to a younger crowd," said Tauscher. "Sometimes antique stores can be expensive and intimidating, but people my age are still interested in the stuff they have to offer.”
The most popular items with young adults include video games, typewriters, cameras and record players. Tauscher has accommodated his merchandise selection to satisfy shoppers of all ages.
“Having a more rounded collection has brought an interest to the antiques we sell,” he said. “Some teenagers stop in who have never seen a rotary phone. They ask me how to use it and start poking at it. It educates them on a progression that they weren't aware of.”
Heather Olson, 22, of Bloomington, is also a young connoisseur of vintage and retro items. Supporting small businesses is an influence on her secondhand shopping behaviors.
“It feels a little less corporate when you can see the owner and watch the exact impact your dollars make,” she said.
A self-proclaimed lover of shopping, Olson enjoys the thrill of the hunt that comes only with antique stores. She did most of her Christmas shopping at BloNo Trade Co.
“I found lots of interesting, pretty things for my friends, books for my dad and vases for my mom. I like looking for household stuff and weird things,” she said. “At antique stores, you won’t find a shelf stocked with 10 of the same thing. There’s exclusivity to it."