“You can’t fail at something you love,” Kiko Bailey mused, reflecting on her newly minted career as the proprietor of Bearded Lady Vintage. As a card-carrying member of the Follow Your Heart Club, those words resonated with me and followed me home. It wasn’t long ago that Bailey and I met, while working together at a local chain restaurant. When she announced that she and her boyfriend, Erick Yaro Wessel, were thinking about opening a vintage shop, I knew she would put her heart into it. What I didn’t realize, however, was how quickly it would come to fruition – and how swiftly it would thrive. I recently sat down with her to talk about Bearded Lady Vintage, what sets them apart from other shops and their plans for the near future.
When did you first get the idea to open Bearded Lady Vintage?
It wasn’t a planned thing; we found the spot and just knew we had to do something. I was working two jobs at the time: never a day off, never saw each other, never did anything creative because we were working so much. Then, we found this place and just kind of jumped in. We just had to do something or the day to day repetition would never break. I never thought I would own a vintage shop. It’s always been something I’m drawn to, but I always thought it was just something I liked.
I didn’t think I would get to the point where I’d have my own store and have it be such a big part of my life. Everything just fell into place and it just made sense to do it. And you can’t fail at something you love.
How did you come up with the name?
I love themes. Bearded Lady and the whole circus aspect. When we first came up with the name, we were driving in the car and it just made sense. There was no second guessing: it just fit. We specialize in strange items and oddities, so it seemed even better. It sets us outside of the usual vintage shop.
Was that planned?
It just happened. We were so drawn to the supernatural. There was an estate sale of a woman who was a paranormal investigator back in the 60s and 70s. Her house was full of all of these amazing books: things on the strange, hypnotism, and life after death. I’ve always been so intrigued by it. We obtained so many of her books and reel-to-reel ghost tapes. Ever since then, we filled the shop with that kind of stuff and got such a good response that it just made sense to keep finding more things to add to it. Then, we found an antique human skull and that just threw it over the top. We got even a bigger response with that and it just made sense to go in that direction. You’re not going to find that kind of stuff down the street. So it set us apart from other shops in the area. We decided to make one of the rooms just an oddities section because we were running out of space. We’re still going to keep all of our other items like the records/record players, housewares, furniture, jewelry, and clothing. We don’t want to just be an oddities shop. We want to have a little bit of everything because that’s what people love about us. We have a little bit of everything because we like just about everything.
Do you remember the first item you sold?
It was a record… Let me check instagram. I remember it being funny. (A minute later) It was a Men at Work record!
Speaking of your instagram (@beardedladyvintage), you put a lot of photos up of products and it generates a lot of interest and sales for your store. Any plans to open an online shop or are you just going to stay brick and mortar?
Instagram has been great because we can put up photos, people can call, and we can set up the sale. We do have an online shop but we just haven’t put the items up yet. It’s in the works. Soon. Really, really soon.
Where do you find all your items?
Estate sales are our primary source.
I love the story behind each piece; that’s how I sell my items. I tell the story about the person, instead of, “this is manufactured in so and so.” I tell about the person and family history.
Do they tell you that at the estate sales?
Sometimes. Or If I buy from a person coming into the shop. One woman was telling us how her and her father would listen to the record player that she was selling to us. I wanted to cry when she was dropping it off. I could tell it was hard for her, although she wanted to give it another life. It’s almost like an adoption agency. I’m like “don’t worry, I’m going to take care of it”. Sometimes I get so attached to something. The trunk from the tap dancer that used to travel the world in the 1920s. It had stickers all over it from the Queen Mary and other places. It was one of our biggest sales but I didn’t want to let it go. I just like trying to get an idea of the previous owner, an item that they cherished so much and then they’re gone. It makes me think of my own collection and whose hands it’ll be in. They won’t know that my cookie jars were the best things in my life!
How do you keep yourself from keeping everything? Because I know if I had a store like this, I would want to keep everything.
It’s so hard. I think being able to give someone a story, give someone something that they will appreciate as much as I do. Just putting it back into the world makes me the happiest – and I have to stay in business. I just remind myself that that is my purpose.
Most challenging part of owning BLV?
Working with Erick is great and all, but I display things a certain way. I set my time to make sure color, era, and story go together – and then I turn around and he’s moved everything. It gives me anxiety. Also, haggling and dealing with customers who are really good at it. We always price what we think the value is. We set things at a good price to keep people coming back.
Most rewarding part?
Say I went to an estate sale and I found something buried under other things or in the closet. I know where I found it. I love to research. I love inscriptions, little notes, and pressed flowers. The most rewarding part is having someone come into the shop and appreciate something as much as I do and taking it home with them: knowing where it’s been and then finding it a new home.
You’ve had a lot of events in the shop. Can you tell me more about them?
Magnolia Park in Burbank hosts “Ladies Night Out”. Every last Friday, all the shops stay open late. We always have entertainment. We became a part of it because we wanted to be a part of the community. We also did a charity event before. We’re always willing to help one another and lend our space for events like that.
My favorite part of the shop is you never know who is going to walk in. I’ve made so many friends. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. It makes it worth it.
by Kimberly Broderick