Catherine Jennings seems to know everyone.
As she walks from her yet-to-open storefront at 314 E. Girard Ave. to her home on Columbia Street, she points out the homes of her friends who continue to advise her — friends who also own small businesses in the area, and know the hardships of setting up shop firsthand.
In the 700 square foot space on Girard Avenue, Jennings is stockpiling inventory for her resale shop, Keys to the Attic. The space was crumbling, Jennings said, when she first purchased it. Now, it’s on its way, and boasts light yellow accented walls and a door stained a deep, oak brown.
There’s still a lot to do, Jennings said, before her “soft opening” in early October. But if you walked past the windowed storefront, you might not know that inside there’s a devoted woman working every day to build the once-abandoned space into a thriving hub for the community and the reclaimed furniture industry.
After getting laid off from her job as a web designer, Jennings said she left “corporate America” and never looked back. She knew she wanted to parlay her hobby into a business, but said she had to learn how it was done.
So she starting talking to other local businesses, like Interstate Draft House, Xhale Lounge, Sweets & Treats and Retrend Philly.
“I would literally knock on their doors and ask them what they did,” she said, adding that she also enlisted the help of the NKCDC and the Women’s Business Development Center.
Jennings said each business told her the same thing: if you need anything, ask. She said that’s a big part of the reason she chose Fishtown for her new business venture. That, and the fact that she’s lived in Fishtown for 24 years.
“I live here. It’s easy to get to, easy to watch and I know people here,” she said.
Keys to the Attic will feature inexpensive vintage and redesigned furniture and home goods. She said she considers ‘Ikea’ and ‘plastic’ bad words.
“I’m being very selective. I don’t want this in any way to turn into a thrift store, she said. “I want the products I sell to be high quality and gently used.”
The shop will also feature CeCe Caldwell’s organic “chalk” paint, which is self-priming and achieves the sanded, weathered look that’s popular in today’s reclaimed home style.
Consigning with Keys to the Attic is simple. Email a photo of the goods you’re interested in selling and the shop will determine the resale price.
It’s a 50/50 split, with the shop getting one half of the earnings. Pieces will be sold in-store for 90 days with markdowns every month. Guidelines on what the shop will and will not sell can be found on its website. Jennings also said she won’t be taking donations.
She will, however, be supporting other local businesses. She said she’s devoting two to three feet of window space to promoting local artists and businesses, even fellow resale operations.
“We’re not in competition, we’ll never have the same products,” Jennings said. “If we support each other, we all grow.”
After all of the community counsel she’s received, Jennings has a few words of advice to anyone working on breaking into the independent, small business sector.
“Get to know your local community banks and organizations,” she said. “There are a lot of resources out there. Use them.”
And if all else fails, go and knock on her door.
Reporter Nikki Volpicelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.