How do you find furniture that’s built to last? It’s the question that drives homeowners, new and old, to a small shop in the Italian Market, where pieces of furniture mingle with antique jewelry, silverware, knickknacks, and the memorabilia of lives fully lived.
And it’s the question that drives owner Keith Allibone of Good’s Vintage to scour flea markets, scrapyards, moving sales, sidewalks, auctions, and more. All just to find a piece with a story. A piece that’s been around a while – perhaps 50 years, maybe more. A piece that will still be around a while more, moving on to the next owner, the next home, to collect the next story.
We talked to Keith to find out about how the store, now four years into its place among Philly’s best treasure troves, got its start.
What is the history of Good’s Vintage?
My dad has been an antique dealer 40 some odd years now. When I’d get in trouble at school, he’d wake up at like 5am and say, “Hey, it’s time. You’re going with me today to the flea market.”
It would still be dark out and I hated waking up early. He would take me to the flea market and I’d be miserable. And by the time 9 am rolled around he’d give me a $10 bill and say, “Go ahead and walk around and find something.”
I guess I’ve been doing this type of thing since I was a kid and it’s always been natural and in my family. My dad would bring home what he would find and I’d go through it and always get excited to see what he had. That paired with the fact that I just love art made it really natural.
I was a realtor in 2008 and the real estate market took a really bad downturn. I was around 23-24 and my dad saw me struggling and he asked if I ever considered doing what he did professionally, selling antiques? He never really tried to push it on me or anything, but I started going around with him as an adult and looking at it as a career. It was like my training, going to the auctions and really paying attention to pricing and trends, seeing what would sell and what would not. Meeting dealers, meeting collectors, building a network.
I started buying and selling out of my van and making money right away. I was really hooked on it. Fast forward a few years of doing that, I started meeting shop owners and collectors who wanted certain things. And I started thinking, why don’t I just open my own shop so I can cut out the middle man?
So, I started this four years ago. This is the flagship store and I love this neighborhood, the Italian Market. I’ve always been drawn to this area. I lived in Northwest Philly about 20 minutes away and I would come out here all the time. I finally had the chance to move here and I’ve lived about 6 years now in this neighborhood.
It sounds like your father was a true motivator for you.
My father inspired me and taught me. He’s the one who told me, “You should go to Philly” because it’s old and there’s some old money here. He works exclusively in Jersey, so this is like my territory. And I’ve always liked Philly.
What are some ways that you source your goods?
A lot of people are downsizing and there’s always real estate turning so people need to get rid of things. We buy all kinds of stuff so people call us and we go out to their homes and basically go “picking”. And then sometimes I still go to flea markets, auctions, buy stuff on eBay, thrift shops, vintage shops, side of the road, construction sites, wherever I can find things. Scrap yards – I’ve been digging in dumpsters, all kinds of stuff.
How much of your time do you spend sourcing versus manning the store?
80 / 20 – 80% buying and 20% here in the store. I have Jessie helping me in the store on the retail end.
Do you have a story about a really great vintage find?
In the summer time, when there’s not a lot of calls coming in, I’ll go to the scrap yard. They are used to guys coming with trucks and looking to sell to them; they aren’t so used to people coming to buy from them. They don’t really understand because it’s big companies that buy scrap metal, tons of it at a time. I have to talk to the manager a lot of times and I usually tell them I’m an artist looking for pieces. And they’re like sure dude whatever you want, just don’t get hurt.
So I go and pick through stuff and one time I found a signed Tiffany and Co. smoking stand. It’s about waist high with a pole and tray, clawed feet, very decorative. Just made for smoking, like an ashtray. I saw it in the scrap pile and it caught my eye, turned it upside down and sure enough it was Tiffany. I think I paid him like $7. I put it back together and fixed it up a bit and sold it on eBay.
Do you have any unique stories about a quirky customer that you’ve dealt with in the past?
There’s a couple people that I really appreciate that come in who have old stories about the old days and they like to reminisce. Because the store just kind of sparks nostalgia. When they see things that they haven’t seen in 50 years, they just say, “Oh, I remember this,” and churn up a lot of stories that they have in their heads.
I have a customer who just comes in looking for old silver stuff that I find, jewelry mostly. And she writes us letters now. She says she sits at home by her radio and writes letters and mails them out. I got one the other day and I was blown away. It’s validation for me. She wrote that she really appreciates us and really loves coming through the store and finding stuff. That was more valuable to me then the stuff that I find.
What’s the best way for a new homeowner to approach vintage shopping? For a novice vintage shopper, what would you recommend they look out for or avoid?
That’s a good question. I think part of the allure of antique or vintage shopping is the fact that a long time ago – I mean 50 years ago, there were half the amount of people there are now on Earth. So, to keep up with the demand of that growing population, manufacturers had to cut corners inherently just to create more product and volume to keep up with the demand.
So if you buy something from 50 years ago, usually it was made a lot better. To me, the whole allure of vintage and antique stuff is the quality of how it was made. So something to look for is quality construction, something that was made by a smaller studio or manufacturer. Something that wasn’t just pumped out and made cheaply. Good materials like good woods, something like marble or alabaster. You can’t buy alabaster at IKEA. Craftsmanship is definitely something to look for. Something with an artist’s personal touch on it that makes it unique as opposed to someone hiring a designer and pumping out a billion of something.
Why should people visit Good’s Vintage and what do you think makes it special?
I personally picked out every single thing in here. I’ve had many trips, hours, negotiations, meetings, and people trusting me and showing me their valuables, with stories behind every single thing that they have that they themselves collected and where they traveled. So everything in here is condensed stories and culture because it’s from all over the world and all through time.
How has the location in the Italian Market treated you? What stands out about this location as a business owner?
Philly is growing a lot and the real estate market is growing, and people are building a lot of new construction, and people from other towns are moving in. This area is unique because it’s been unchanged for the last 110 years or so and has that old world feel. It draws a lot of people in, from all walks of life. There’s so many people that come here from all over the city, all over the country, and even all over the world. So it’s a great way to meet different people and find different cultures. It’s what I enjoy about it and it ties to the diversity of what I have in the store.
I just think that Philadelphia and this area specifically has drawn me towards it because of the people, the food, and the unchanged historical aspect of it. It’s just really easy to live here because it’s a big city with a small neighborhood feel and everyone is welcome.
Do you have a favorite Philly store you’d love to see featured here? Tell me about it and we might do a story! Contact Christina Briglia, Realtor: 267-231-5484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.