There’s a definite difference between items labeled as “vintage” and those labeled as “antique.” Just ask Dena McAfee and Caroline Yu.
The two entrepreneurs recently opened Horse Feathers Vintage in downtown Angels Camp after discovering a shared affinity for vintage items. And, yes, there is a difference between vintage and antique.
“There is a difference. Vintage is typically 40 to 50 years old,” McAfee said. “Whereas antiques are typically 100 years or older. I’ve heard some people define it by eras. For us, vintage is ’60s, ’70s – some of it may venture into the ’40s.”
“It’s too cool to throw away,” Yu said.
Before her latest venture with Yu, McAfee had a shop in Murphys. The establishment wasn’t finding its customer base for antiques, and McAfee decided to close the business. She focused more on flea markets and other shows. It was at the Copper flea market (which McAfee and her husband organize to benefit Copperopolis Parks and Rec) where she met Yu and the two made a connection over vintage items.
“Dena and I met at the Copperopolis flea market just last year, and we hit it off,” Yu said. “We became friends very quickly. Because we were focused on doing shows in the area – and you have to haul everything, turnover merchandise very quickly – we were also shopping together and doing shows together.”
Through a series of events, the two decided to open a business together in Calaveras County.
Horse Feathers Vintage offers items that have not been recycled, rather they’re “upcycled,” according to McAfee. Things like an old post office box door becomes a picture frame; a rusty mattress spring becomes a way to mount artwork on a wall; coffee tins become a means to store jewelry or other items. Along with the vintage home décor are old clothes that harken back to a different time but are still fashionable enough to find a new place in someone’s closet.
Not only do Yu and McAfee sell vintage furniture, they also sell Dixie Bell chalk mineral paint, which is used to touch up or restore pieces, giving them a rustic look.
“We’ll find these beautiful antique pieces and they’re scratched up and no one likes looking at it, so we’ll paint it a more modern or appealing color,” Yu said. “Sometimes we’ll go back and distress it.”
McAfee said she wanted to provide a quality chalk paint to their customers. Along with selling the paint, they are toying with the idea of hosting paint demonstrations and classes for customers that want to do it themselves.
The two have different styles, but those styles mesh to create an eclectic mix of products.
“(Caroline’s) style is a little funky. She tends to kinda be ’60s, ’70s funk, and I think I’m a little more rusty junk,” McAfee said. “I love the old wood. I love metal.”
Though the two have their preferences, they understand that it’s about the consumer.
“We know what we want to sell, but that isn’t necessarily what people want to buy,” McAfee said. “We haven’t figured out who that is here in Angels yet.”
“We try to get feedback from the customers, too,” Yu said. “That’s the great thing about being in a small town; you can be more interactive with the customer because it’s set up for that.”
Many of the pieces they find to sell come from different places, but they also sell products created by local women-owned businesses or created with locally sourced materials.
Both women believe they are “people people,” with a passion for mixing the old and the new.
As for the name of the shop? Since the slang version of the term “horse feathers” refers to “malarkey,” “rubbish” or ‘junk,’ Yu and McAfee decided to embrace that.
“Some people might think this is rubbish, but we think this is junk, therefore it is,” McAfee said with a laugh.
“In this business it’s a playful term we use, “junk,” literally,” Yu said. “Dena has found (some items) at the dump. That’s part of it. It was someone’s junk. We believe in the history behind the item. When we say, ‘junk,’ we say it playfully.”
“It’s fun and it’s playful, and that’s who we are,” McAfee said. “And junk? It’s spelled j-u-n-q-u-e.”