Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vintage Shop Interview: Tini

(This Is Not IKEA)

515 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-9230

Owner: Alexis Hadjopulos
*Watch this extraordinarily handsome vintage furniture/household shop owner on his new show: Pop Shop premiering in January 2012 on HDTV!

Q: Where does your love for vintage come from?

A: I would say living here in L.A. because you would never see a furniture store like this in Mexico where I'm from, but I also remember living in Madrid when I was six or seven years old and we would go to the flea market over there. My Dad would take the whole family. When they were all done, I would want them to leave me there and pick me up at the end of the day! I was just getting started!!! My family all thinks it’s crazy that I like old things. Everything in my house and everything I wear is vintage.  No one understands vintage in Mexico. In fact, one of my dreams is to take this store to my hometown and explain to them why it's cool.

Q: What caused you to start selling furniture?

A: I moved here for music 12 years ago. After five years, my Dad who was supporting me said, “Okay, I’ve been very nice," which I had to agree, “but after five years, you’re on your own now.” I needed to figure something out. I was always going to garage sales and flea markets and would always see things that were great, but I didn’t have a use for them. My house was already looking nice. I thought maybe I should try buying a couple of these things, put them online and see what happens. I remember the first thing was a little dinette set and it sold right away. I made a good profit and tried again. I bought four more things and those sold too.

Q: What was the process in opening up the store?
A: I used to sell out of my house for five years. I had two living rooms, a T.V. room, two spare bedrooms and all were filled up floor to ceiling with furniture. My bedroom and the kitchen were the only two rooms that were sacred. That’s how I started. For five years it was just me.  I made lists of where to shop, I would go buy the stuff, bring it home, take pictures of everything, put my stuff on Craigslist, email people back, meet with them at the house and show them the stuff, and do deliveries. It was a lot. This store opened 2 and a half years ago. Thank God I have amazing people helping me now.

Q: How did you get this great space?
A: We actually ended up with this space by accident. One day, my landlords said I had 30 days to get all my stuff out of my house. They said I could say but all the furniture had to go. I signed a lease at a place on Melrose and Fairfax (it was so much smaller though--1/5 or 1/6 of the space we have here), and they decided at the last minute (day 25) that they weren’t going to rent out to us. I had five days to get all my stuff out of my house. We literally found this the next day and we moved in two days later.We lucked out.

Q: I love that your store is an acronym for "This is not IKEA." Can you tell me how you came up with your store’s name?

A: It was 3 am and I was talking to my cousin trying to come up with a good name. I didn’t want "Alexis’ Antiques" or anything like that. I wanted something a little more clever. I wanted to figure out a way to tell people this is not IKEA. This is the opposite of IKEA. We're unique and not manufactured. My cousin said, "Maybe it’s just that. Not IKEA." I checked on the web and “Not IKEA” was already taken. No store called that, but someone was selling the domain because they had bought it thinking someday someone would want to use that name for something, and yeah that was us. They wanted thousands and thousands of dollars for it and I wasn't going to pay that. Then I thought of “This is not IKEA” which had a better ring to it anyway. Then it just went to TINI which was catchy.

Q: Have you found it difficult having your own business in this economy? 
A: No. People were telling me that this was not the time to open a store. I needed to though because the landlords were kicking us out! It helped that I already had a clientele from selling online and then the film industry has helped too. We do rentals to studios since a lot of our stuff works well as props.

Q: Where do you find your pieces now? Still at flea markets?
A: Estate sales, garage sales, flea markets. I woke up today at 5am and I just got to the store with three car loads full of stuff. It’s like Christmas every Saturday.

Q: What’s your favorite era for vintage furniture?
A: Fifties. I think the design that we had then--from cars to the furniture to clothes--was so great. If Eames, Herman Miller and all the designers of the fifties could see what our design aesthetic is in 2011, they would probably say, "I think we had it right back then."

Q: Are there sets on television shows from past decades that you find inspiring?
A: As much as I love looking at the old shows, I didn’t grow up watching them. I was in Mexico and in Mexico you didn’t see them.

Q: You don’t have Nick at Nite in Mexico? (laughing)
A: No! I started late. I started with Beverly Hills 90210. But…the nineties are this close to being cool. Give us five more years and we’ll all be wearing what Brandon was wearing. (laughs)

Q: Yikes. Sweater vests on a guy I just don’t know about.
A: I know right?

Q: Is there a piece in the store you've been surprised hasn’t sold?
A: This jukebox here. How great would it be in a store or someone’s house? Playing hundreds of records? I think it’s just a big item that someone has to have the space to put it.

Q: Is there a certain trend that customers have been asking for?
A: Right now it’s the industrial style. For the last year and even more the last six months. Work tables that are fifty years old. All that heavy metal and steel stuff sells as soon as we get it in here. I’m always keeping my eye out for industrial.

Q: Do you have any design tips for transforming a room from ordinary to special?
A: Besides the transformation that paint can do for a room, I would choose things that are just different. I bought this huge Playmobil that’s bigger than me and you and I said, “I bet the moment we get it into the store it’s going to sell,” and boom it sold that day. I would say being different, being yourself and making your space unique is what makes a room special. ~

This chair was transformed from a Grandma chair into an abstract work of art.

Come get your loved ones something unique at Tini!!!

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