We’ve all had that experience of stepping into a vintage mid century modern shop only to be met with a less than enthusiastic greeting and frosty attitude from the shop owner. You feel they can somehow see the balance of your bank account.
The greeting you receive from Courtney Gallagher is the extreme opposite as her shop name Not Another Mod Snob so effectively communicates. Courtney’s refreshing and irreverent attitude toward a sometimes stuffy business is on full display in her Instagram feed which has garnered her more than 12,000 followers and is growing daily.
Her shop, located in Riverside, California in a former pharmacy is packed with her vintage finds and furniture projects in the process of being restored. You leave her shop feeling you have known her forever.
How did you get started as a mid century modern dealer?
My favorite hobby has always been what I call thrifting. My grandma used to take me with her to do what she called antiquing so I guess I always had the bug.
I grew up in Riverside but moved to Virginia Beach because my husband is active duty military. We moved a lot and my husband was gone for long stretches of time when he was deployed. I had a lot of time on my hands but not a lot of money. So I would go thrifting. I find it very soothing. The thrill of the hunt is my passion and it never gets old. At the time I didn’t know the term “mid century modern” I just knew what I liked. I was always attracted to kitsh, Googie, modern, atomic and boy I loved lava lamps and still do!
When did you think you might have a viable business on your hands?
We had moved back to Riverside and bought a house. The house was modern in style so I started sharing our remodel journey on social media.
The house had a long narrow living room and the overstuffed couch I bought for it just never felt right to me. I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market and found two modern living room chairs and atomic-style side tables. I started to develop a certain look that felt right for that room. I then found a couch that was small in scale and had a low profile and it fit the room perfectly.
I found I was buying many more items than the house could possibly hold and my husband really wanted the extra items out of the garage! So I set up an Etsy store and started selling items online. Of course when items sold it helped justify buying more items!
I found I had a real knack for selling. I also had a talent for finding items even if they weren’t in great shape. Because I’m a military wife, I had out of necessity learned to be resourceful. I often had to fix things around the house that broke because my husband wasn’t available or even figure out how to move an entire household by myself. So I knew how to refinish and repair the items that I found that were in less than perfect shape.
I always wanted to open a brick and mortar shop but never felt the timing was right. I probably would have kept selling only on Etsy but I decided to take the plunge and open a brick and mortar store when my father-in-law died suddenly. He had his retirement all planned out and he would speak of it often. He was going to get a camper and travel. He was one year away from retirement when he died. He had worked his entire life for that dream.
I decided then that tomorrow is not promised to us. It really shook me so I decided that’s it — I’m going to make it happen.
I eventually closed my Etsy store and devoted all my time and energy to the shop which I opened a year after he passed away. It was tiny at just 760 square feet but I still didn’t have that many items to sell when I opened for business in 2017.
In 2019 I took another leap of faith and opened at my current location just a short distance from my original shop. It is in an iconic mid century modern building whose former life was as a pharmacy in the 1950s. At more than 4000 square feet it is much bigger.
You call your shop Not Another Mod Snob — how did that come about?
The vintage mid century modern industry can get very wrapped up in names and model numbers. My philosophy is just find what you like and buy it. I’m more interested in is it cool, is it vintage, does it speak to me — than what its pedigree is.
After all we are all just used furniture sales people now isn’t that right!
Have you had any push back from the more traditional mid century modern community?
When I first started I had push back from the community for some of my restoration projects. For example, one of my first projects was restoring a vintage TV cabinet. I made it into a bar. Not everyone was happy with that but I loved it!
That was part of my learning curve. You don’t know what you don’t know after all and I was a newbie. I picked up a lot of knowledge just by being exposed to it and by being dedicated to the hunt. For example, when I first started I knew nothing about the different type of wood finishes. I thought brown was a wood finish!
I now understand their point of view but I didn’t then. But I still feel that if you love a piece and it needs fixed then fix it and use it even if it changes the original character of the item.
How did you build your business using Instagram? Any tips for other aspiring businesses?
The internet really makes the world pea size. My first post was in 2015 and had just a few likes for a creamer and sugar set. Now I have more than 12,000 followers and I couldn’t be more honored and surprised!
I guess my advice would be that consistency is key. Posting stories and posting every day needs to be a top priority. The more involved you are, the more people will see your posts. I think people are attracted to my feed because I’m very open about my struggles, my successes, my family and so on. I use teaser photos for incoming inventory so people keep checking back and I like to use polls where I ask my followers questions like what fabric color should I pick to upholster an item.
I’ve put a face to my brand and people have really connected with that. It was done in a very genuine way — I think people can tell if you are being a phony. You aren’t always going to make someone happy with what you post but that is the price you pay for community involvement and I’m ok with that.
Every weekend I get calls or messages on Instagram from people coming to see me which is something I can’t believe that people would travel to see me. My favorite story is a woman from Japan was in LA on business and got a car to come see me. She had found me on Instagram. She has an incredible mid century modern home in Japan. She purchased a Bitossi cat sculpture.
Your husband seems to play the role of the long suffering husband on your instagram feed — how did that come about?
My husband is not a fan of the vintage mid century modern style! His preference is a piece of over stuffed furniture with a cup holder. I think some of my followers love to check in to see how I have roped him in to help me!
How do you find your vintage mid century modern items?
I find things at the usual places that you hear about — the Rose Bowl Flea Market, Long Beach Antique market and so on but those places can be expensive and competition for the same items is pretty stiff. I also work with a couple of pickers whom I’ve met along the way. I also buy a lot from out of state. I try to attend estate sales but I usually have my two young children with me so it is hard to focus at those sales.
At this point I have been doing this long enough and have grown my online community to the point where people will often reach out to me to offer items to sell.
Are there any items you find that are hard to part with?
It is so hard to part with the Adrian Pearsall pieces! I love the wood detail, the boomerang shape and the sexy low sofas. Some people are snobby that the pieces aren’t iconic mid century modern pieces but I think they have a flow to them that are unmatched in my opinion. I always get a bit of a tug on my heart when I let one go.
Looking for more vintage mid century modern insight? Check out this post on vintage stereo consoles and restorer Jeff Brough.
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About the Contributors
Patricia’s view of mid century design and lifestyle is summed up by this quote by architect William Krisel, “Midcentury modernism is not a style, it’s a language. It stays the same whether it’s spoken in 1955 or 2005. It’s a language that will always be spoken.”
Patricia and her husband, Scott, owned a Herman Miller commercial furniture
dealership in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 20 years. The dealership introduced them to the world of midcentury design and it was love at first sight.
Patricia was also a public relations and marketing executive in Silicon Valley and in Los Angeles for more than ten years. She and her husband own a commercial photography business in San Francisco. Scott and Patricia live in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco which is home to some of the most interesting and creative people in San Francisco. Their neighborhood blog, indogpatch.com, features Patricia’s interviews and Scott’s photos of these interesting individuals.
Scott is one of the premiere Executive Portrait and Headshot Photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, he founded SRK Headshot Day, providing individuals and companies a way to get the same high-quality headshot photography experience as Fortune 500 CEOs at locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Scott is a contributing photographer at InMenlo.com and the founding photographer for Punch Magazine, where his editorial photographs portrayed the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. He is a graduate of the Academy of Art University where he received an MFA in Photography.