BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Alison Zook is a born retailer. At age eight she had a lemonade stand, in seventh grade she was selling her friends’ jewelry, and in her 20s she had two booths at the Bloomington Antique Mall. Opening her own store, A.Z. Vintage at 236 N. Morton St., is the culmination of a lifelong dream.
The store opened on Friday, April 13, one day before her 32nd birthday.
“Friday the thirteenth has always been lucky for me,” says Zook, a Spencer native who has lived in Bloomington for 13 years. “Everything about how the store happened was charmed. My realtor found a wonderful, affordable space that has great foot traffic. A couple of investors actually approached me. The Small Business Development Center helped me write a business plan. I am a lucky, lucky girl.”
Lucky she may be, but, as the old saying goes, you make your own luck, and Zook works hard to fill her shop with vintage clothing, collectibles, and furniture from the 1940s to 1980s. Since the shop has no workspace, she refinishes furniture at home in the evenings and takes the refurbished pieces into the store to sell.
“I love saving things,” she says, pointing to a sleek midcentury coffee table she restored. “It would hurt my heart to let them crumble.”
Zook says she abhors a cluttered feel and strives for optimum use of space and eye-catching displays. A vibrant array of vintage kitchen accessories—from swizzle sticks to canisters to thermoses—is arranged on one wall. A sleek cabinet has pullout drawers with carefully aligned ’60s and ’70s deadstock sunglasses. In the space above a clothing rack hang pictures from Zook’s vintage paint-by-number collection—a kitschy knock off of Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy is side-by-side with cute cocker spaniels.
Like all new business owners, Zook is working to get the word out—for now, using mostly Facebook. Recently a Missouri couple saw a 1950s sofa-and-chair set with original frieze upholstery on her site, and they drove to Bloomington to buy it. Zook has also designed tote bags with the store’s logo that sell for $3 and guarantee the carrier a 10 percent discount on future purchases.
Zook is optimistic about the future. “Used merchandise is a growth industry,” she says. “More people are choosing to reuse and recycle.”
A.Z. Vintage store hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10 am-7 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm.