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How I set up a vintage shop

28 October 2010 11 Comments

Emily Inglis opened Wooden Hill Vintage boutique in Lewes on on 1 October 2010, here she explains how a few doodles sketched out in the pub turned into her dream business.

Emily Inglis Wooden Hill

The shop space

Having graduated in July, I was working in my hometown of London as a freelance journalist. Work was sparse so I decided to move to Lewes where I’d previously spent many weekends with friends.

That month I was having a walk around when I fell upon the space which would become Wooden Hill Vintage. It was advertised as an ‘artists’ space come workshop’. Of course I ignored this and went about announcing to my friend that I was going to open a vintage shop there. The space was at the top of some wooden stairs and my friend’s Dad used to call stairs ‘the wooden hill’, so the name ‘Wooden Hill Vintage’ seemed perfect.

Scarves at Wooden Hill Vintage

The business plan

Once he realised I had not gone mad and was serious, we decamped to The Office pub in the North Laine and wrote up a very sketchy business plan. As you can imagine, by the end the grand plan by was a series of doodles rather than numbers and guidelines, but it was exciting and I knew it would work, because it was me doing something that I love.

Wooden Hill Vintage Lewes

The brand

From that day to till we opened, I was busy planting the seed online. As a freelance journalist I work a great deal online and used that experience to ‘build the brand’. The reaction was phenomenal; I wanted the ‘Wooden Hill Vintage’ brand to be interactive, therefore the Facebook proved invaluable in involving people. The website was a great way to showcase the progress of the shop and the stock coming together and we even managed to catch the eye of a leading stylist, who we will now supply with vintage clothing for photoshoots, TV shows and so on.

I cannot stress enough how significant a website can be to a brand, be it clothing, food, books, anything. It opens up your market and you can ultimately create an online product without even having the tangible product ready to sell! It makes you so accessible and it’s so easy. All I did was buy the domain name (do your research, make sure there are no other companies too similar to yours) and then set up a blog and redirected the domain to the blog. Simple. Yet highly effective.

Building up stock for Wooden Hill Vintage

The creatives

At this point you really need to sit down and think of all the people you know who could help you; for me the focus was on photographers, designers and those who are creative or who already have their own business and you could get advice from. I was lucky enough to know someone under all of these titles and they have been priceless to me and Wooden Hill Vintage. From the Look Book to the logo to stocking upcycled furniture and homemade cards; none of it could have happened without these people. Thus always considering myself to be part of a team here, as opposed to the sole owner.

Wooden Hills Vintage shoes

The stock

People always ask where I get my stock; when the idea was born in August, I spent months going to house clearances, antiques stores, in the smaller towns, all over the country.

As time got more tight, I came into contact with a lovely guy who runs a ‘vintage wholesalers’ up North. I was skeptical to start with as I didn’t want to fall into the ‘mass vintage’ kind of store that Beyond Retro is – my service is more bespoke and I have hand-picked every single item in this shop and plan to for years to come. But I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse his stock was and was able to chose items, of a very high quality, to suit my brand and own personal demand as a ‘buyer’, so he has become an excellent source; and there are many like him across the country.

Wooden Hill Vintage Lewes

The day-to-day

Now the shop is open, and the stock is in, I have naturally continued the push online; with Facebook updates about the everyday running of the shop, uploading photos as I get stock in, taking requests, and so on.

As mentioned before; we have a Look Book being shot as we speak. It’s a fantastic way to showcase that not only do we sell vintage clothing, but the clothing is in keeping with trends and is wearable. Which I think is incredibly important in this day and age when money is tighter and everything we buy we have to ask ‘Will I really wear this?’

Wooden Hill Vintage Lewes

The advice

If I had any advice to anyone, starting not only a vintage fashion business, but any business, is that you must be doing something you love and something you know. My history is in fashion styling and marketing, as well as journalism and PR, which culminated in the shop. And above all, I love what I’m doing, I love fashion and I love meeting people; which is everything Wooden Hill Vintage is about and always will be.

Check out the Wooden Hill Vintage website or visit the shop’s Facebook page.

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  • Tweets that mention Vintage Brighton » Blog Archive » How I set up a vintage shop -- Topsy.com said:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emily Inglis, vintagebrighton. vintagebrighton said: Emily Inglis explains how she set up the very pretty vintage boutique @WoodenHillVntg in Lewes: http://bit.ly/ae3KzJ […]

  • sinead lally said:

    hi there!

    ive just stumbled across your blog here and what a lovely read it was. Im in the middle of setting up my own vinatage website from home and then hope to open a wee shop in the city after.
    Your post gave me some nice little pointers on what to do and so on…
    ive been in retail for ten years and do some styling ect and have a fashion blog myself and i love photography. Ido have alot of friends into the likes aswell that could help me out.
    Im just try to find wholessale sellers now ect and see what i can find..like you i would like to hand pick them aswell and not carry aload of well…rubbish.. but beautiful peices and affordable prices..
    so im just starting out getting my name together and domain ect and then will start the travelling ect..

    anyways ill shut up now i just want to say thk you and your shop looks amazing!! lovely place to work!!
    all the best with all your future projects..looking forward to the website opening.. ive followed you on facebook so i will see it there

    chow : )

    Sinead x

  • Sasha Khan said:

    So inspiring! Was thinking of starting one myself and really enjoyed reading your blog! Thanks

  • Suzy said:


    I love your shop! What a fab name too!

    I actually have a market stall and sell everything vintage and like yourself I have an absolute love of every single item.

    Good luck with your shop and happy vintage hunting.

  • Bethany Taylor said:

    Hi im 12 and make ‘teacup candles’ was just wondering if you would be intrested in buying any for your shop (which is fab by the way) I am in Kent and desperate please respond xxx

  • VintageBrighton.com (author) said:

    Hi Bethany – unfortunately Emily no longer has a bricks & mortar shop. She now sells online exclusively.

  • Thrifting: An affair of character « Venom and Clover said:

    […] Image source here […]

  • debs said:

    bethany how is your candle selling business? sinead lally you sound lovely 🙂 how is your website going??

  • sinead lally said:

    hey debs

    all going well thank god
    set up cotton face vintage and its going really well
    might be taking the plunge into a wee shop in a few weeks if all goes ok for me
    illknow at the end of the month
    also working on a website too
    fingers crossed
    love what i do so much!

    thanks for asking 🙂

  • Mary said:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips. Im doing something similar near Olympia Washington.Also going to use FB. I See what you’re saying about importance of good photography and networking/bartering with friends.I’ll be watching for more of your insights and experiences.

  • So you want to....? - Real Vintage Life For Outlaws, Adventurers and Romantics - Real Vintage Life For Outlaws, Adventurers and Romantics said:

    […] Vintage Brighton (Even though this post was written in 2010, please don’t be put off! We still love this post and it’s highly valuable!) […]

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