Doug and Della Burruss not only believe in the adage “good things come in small packages,” but they are helping others to experience that for themselves, through their antiques business, Nostalgia Palace.
“Della has a deep affection for display cabinets, and I am compelled to fill them,” said
Doug, who along with his wife, have been collecting antiques and oddities for three decades. “To be honest, we have many collections and they all have one thing in common – size. We tend to be very attracted to the smaller things.”
In the process of rescuing discarded antiques and relics and using them to create jewelry and art, or simply adding them to their collection, the couple’s dedication to the rescue and reuse process grew into selling the antique and vintage items they found. This marked the beginning of Nostalgia Palace.
“Customers will find all manner of antiques and collectibles in our spaces, from rusty dusty antique hardware to beautiful early American pattern glass,” Doug said, about their antiques business, which began in 2010 and they operate in two antique malls in California — Blue Door Antiques in Livermore, California, and Olde Towne Antiques Mall, in Pleasanton, California. Plus, they also sell items online.
Antique Trader caught up with the Burruss’ recently to learn a bit more about the history of their business, and the future, which is a fusion of preserving and promoting the past through traditional practices and modern technology.
Antique Trader: Like many people, you operate an antiques business on a part-time basis, what has that taught you about the business, and where you’d like to take it in the future?
Della Burruss: During our short time in the antique business, we have learned many things, the most notable being our desire to own and operate our own antique store. We are passionate about the history and personal stories of the antiques we find. We spend hours researching old catalogs, history books and we do a lot of listening. We have met so many wonderful people who have a wealth of knowledge, and we are always grateful to listen to those individuals with years of experience. Right now our goal is to continue collecting and selling in the co-op environment with the occasional fairs, continue working at our careers, then after we retire, buy a small store and sell full time. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend our retirement years than to be together working in the antique business.
The fact that we are doing this part-time led us to find a way to be able to sell more often than one day every few months at an antique fair. Participating in a collective means our treasures are for sale every day. That has been a great benefit. The main challenge then became how to share the stories of our pieces with our customers on the days we weren’t in the shop. Trying to solve this challenge is how the idea of QR codes was born.
AT: How did you come to incorporate QR coding in selling antiques? How do you use it, and how has it helped your business since you began?
DB: We first learned of QR codes from one of Della’s coworkers. He mentioned how he had incorporated a QR code into his business cards to share additional information about his skills. With that idea in our heads, we realized pretty quickly we had a solution to the challenge of sharing the story about an item with potential customers even when we were not at the shops.
We use QR codes for those items that have special information. We often have pieces
with great information provided by the family. We love to share that information with our customers. As a collector, you want to know as much as possible about the item being purchased. It adds another dimension to collecting, one that truly brings the piece to life.
For those items that have QR codes, we make small signs to set near the item inviting customers with smartphones and a scan app to learn more information. It has created quite a buzz and lots more activity in our spaces. We have received lots of questions from dealers about how they can do the same for their items.
AT: What is one of your favorite moments involving a collector, since you opened your business?
DB: My favorite moments are when customers come in looking for a specific item. When they inquire about the item, I send them to Doug. Doug has a fabulous photographic memory. He does his morning walk-through of the shop before we open and he is able to keep a mental inventory. I love the looks on customers’ faces when he directs them right to the item; it is amazing to watch.
AT: If you were to explain the importance of antiques and collectibles to someone who is unfamiliar, what would you say?
DB: We think collecting antiques is very important. It is important and fun to learn about the past and very important to preserve it for the future. With every piece we can look into the past and try to gain some insight to how people lived, what they needed, utilized and cherished. So many vintage items can still be used today, making it a great way to recycle.
So the next time you’re in areas of Livermore or Pleasanton, California, look for Blue Door Antiques and Olde Towne Antiques, respectively, to see the latest offerings at Nostalgia Palace. Or, if a trip to California isn’t in your plans anytime soon, stop by the Nostalgia Palace shop on eBay to explore the variety of antiques and collectibles the Burrusses have gathered and are providing fellow collectors the chance to enjoy, as well.
Editor’s Note: To learn a bit more about using QR codes in your antiques business, check out Wayne Jordan’s Behind the Gavel column in the Dec. 25, 2013, issue of Antique Trader.