This week sawdust filled the air of the second floor at Water Street Vintage, a retail business in New London’s downtown district.
In January, husband and wife team Jeff and Kelly Rickert bought the two-story building from former retail business owner Gary Markman. Markman sold quality clothing and accessories there for years.
The entire Rickert family and close friends took to remodeling the ground floor. Soon a deep entrance split into three aisles to house 35 booths for vintage and antiques dealers to sell their wares. The checkout counter mimics a general store counter of years past.
Water Street Vintage opened in February.
Prior to remodeling and opening the doors, the couple discussed short and long-range goals. Opening the second floor was at least three years out.
“Because of the incredible demand from vintage and antiques dealers, the expansion is already happening,” Kelly said.
The second story will open to customers Saturday, Oct. 11.
The second floor has a different footprint than the floor below. About a 25-foot-by-30-foot space — The Gathering Room — is a perfect venue for hosting meetings or special functions. Kelly plans to instruct ‘how-to’ classes in the room. Guests will enter through a sliding barn door to find this room.
In another section, Kelly and daughter Katie are creating a wedding booth, offering ideas for personalizing all aspects of a wedding day.
Shoppers will find an architectural section upstairs too, featuring old windows, doors, beams, tin tiles, hardware, etc.
The south wall of the store provides a birds-eye view of Water Street. Items purchased with a $50,000 renovation budget include custom-made windows to preserve the look of the old building. A built-in bench runs the entire length of the windowed wall. Additional funds went to completely new heating and air conditioning, electrical needs, an update of the security systems and restoration of a 1950s elevator.
“This is a wonderfully crazy place in every way, since the very beginning,” Jeff said.
He is a can-do individual, known to think outside the box. He spent countless hours in the building this year, performing every major project imaginable.
“I now know more about elevators than I ever thought I would,” he said.
Each time a cast off item comes into view, Kelly envisions a reclaimed product. She is a talented repurposing artist. Reclaimed and repurposed items are a huge part of the business.
“I just love to have things come to life again and someone takes it home and loves it,” she said.
Kelly is also general manager of Water Street Vintage. She handles the day-to-day business, often times found assisting customers, restaging the store’s merchandise, and using her computer to build a customer base. Tapping into social media, she oversees the look of the store on Facebook, updating it with photos of new merchandise or store information. The mall has a website – waterstreetvintage.com. Kelly also reaches customers who are devoted to reading trade magazines, local newspapers and tourism pamphlets.
Kelly and Jeff toss ideas around by the hour. Sometimes Jeff sees what Kelly needs before she can verbalize it. It works the same for Kelly.
“So many years of marriage does that,” Jeff said.
The couple could easily boast about their daughter Katie and son Joe. They help in many ways no one even sees.
Customer’s eyes focus on the creative decor and moderately priced items at Water Street Vintage. Many return to the mall with curious friends and continue to find new treasures.
The second floor open house is Saturday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. New dealer merchandise is tops on the offering list. Snacks and refreshments will be available. The Rickert family is easily recognizable. They are the ones going out of their way to assist you.