Business

My Biz: Polly Ann's Vintage Market entrepreneurs in Mount Vernon 'knew how to work hard'

Antiques shop had been meant to become apartments

Polly Ann Blythe and her husband, Bob, have been business partners since they started mowing lawns together at 16.

Today, they are the owners of Polly Ann’s Vintage Market in Mount Vernon. But the shop, which carries a variety of vintage and antique collectibles, was a venture the couple didn’t exactly intend to start.

“We bought the building planning to turn it into apartments,” recalled Blythe, noting that plans had to be changed when they learned they need to have a retail space on the first floor — per city code at the time — of the home.

Blythe said her parents were antique collectors and she reached out to her father to see if there was anything she was willing let them sell if they opened an antique store. The shop opened in December 1991.

Polly Ann’s started with antiques in just the front two rooms. Now the shop is the whole house — and the front porch — full of antiques and more in 3,500 square feet.

Twenty six years later, Blythe said they owe their success to a lot of hard work.

“I had zero business background, but I was determined not to go back to work for someone else,” she said. “But my husband and I knew how to work hard. Sweat equity is the name of the game.”

Later that first year, the Blythes participated in their first antique show, something they now do about 20 times a year now.

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“We made $1,800 in five days and we thought we had the world by the tail,” she recalled.

They also soon began leasing space to other antiques dealers within their Mount Vernon shop. Today there are 13 other vendors — including Blythe’s father — who rent space at Polly Ann’s.

As if the shop didn’t keep them busy enough, the Blythes also operate a bed-and-breakfast at their Mount Vernon home, and Bob builds custom harvest tables, kitchen islands, cupboards, vintage farm sink bases and mantles, among other items. The Blythes also have built or flipped 11 houses — including their own — all while raising their three children.

“Time is our most valuable commodity,” she said. “I’m not the typical 9-to-5 mom. I live my life one project at a time.”

Blythe said they’ve really noticed a shift in the market over the past several years and have adapted their business.

“We have repurposed and upcycled items and a lot of furniture,” she said. “We focus on function with character because people need things that are useful. The ‘sit around’ stuff doesn’t sell anymore.

“We are seeing a much younger clientele (especially at shows) looking to decorate and furnish their homes rather than collecting antiques.”

Blythe said the most common comment they hear is “oh, my gosh, my grandma had that.” “That’s pretty much an instant sale,” she said. Blythe herself understands the sentiment. Her favorite finds are vintage kitchen items, especially colorful kitchen items from the 40s and 50s.

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Not surprisingly, she still loves the treasure hunt even after more than two decades. “I love find something that needs to be saved by us and fixed, just finding pieces with potential.”

AT A GLANCE

Owner: Polly Ann Blythe

Business: Polly Ann’s Vintage Market

Address: 103 A Ave. S, Mount Vernon

Phone: (319) 270-0449

Website: pollyannsvintagemarket.com

Know a business in operation for more than a year we should consider for a “My Biz feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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