Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Steve Coster, who runs Second Wind of Hobart with his mother, Linda.
How long have you lived in the area?
We moved here as a family in the fall of 2006 from Maryland.
Tell me about your business:
We fix, repair, refinish, reupholster and clean up used items to make them useful again. Some of the items in our shop are antiques and some are just old, quality items, all of which we buy and restore. It's easier to describe all that we do in three groups: we have the yard sale-type things that are more modern items that are used; the really cool stuff that is old and may have great value to someone who is a collector or looking for unique things; and then there is the "wow" category. The "wow"s are the great surprises of things that we discover and have to research their origins and market value.
Describe a typical day in your business:
My weekdays are spent sanding, gluing, cutting and polishing, or hunting for auctions and sales. My weekends fill up with choosing a larger-size repair piece that I can work on in the yard or under cover so that I am able to talk with customers. The day fills in with researching the origins of items and doing work on pieces that customers bring in for repair.
How did you get started in this line of work?
I didn't do any planning _ the business first began when I bought a yard sale item or found something discarded that looked OK if only it was cleaned up. Soon people were stopping by the house to see what the latest "find" was and if I would sell it. Or they bring something in that is very sentimental to them that they would like to have repaired. I have an eye for certain things and I am great at repairing items.
Where do you see this business in five years?
I think it will be about the same with more customers. I would like to start and sponsor a Hobart or Delaware County antique show and I would like to go to more auctions to sell more of my "upper end" items. I will continue to gather customers who want me to set aside specific items that I come across and that they are collecting.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
There are always memorable moments in this line of work _ the discovery aspect is always present. My days are filled with finding pieces that might have me asking "What is it?" and "Where did it come from?" as I begin research. I have come across some amazing and interesting things and they are all memorable.
What have you learned from your work?
Overall the process of selling old items especially is that you might see on the Internet that some item is valued at one level, but it comes down to how much it will actually sell for that determines its value. I have also learned not to use 30-grit sandpaper on veneer, and that you can not glue crystal. Not so much a lesson, but what I try to educate customers about is that I am not an antique expert, I am very good at repairing and reviving some things, but other things need to go to an expert.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
One of the greatest challenges comes with matching customers up with what I have for sale. Almost everything has value to someone and that feat of linking what I have to the customers who are searching is a challenge. I think that all of Hobart has a similar challenge. Bringing people into this community is going to take time.
The most enjoyable?
I like discovering the beauty of something that has been covered with grime or coats of paint. Finding something rare, valuable or unusual, seeing the potential of some old and neglected piece of furniture or tool and then after working on it being able to see the transformation is really enjoyable.
How do you define success for your business?
Success is when a new customer discovers my business, is awed by my prices and finds a great treasure that they love.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
The advantages of this area is actually somewhat unfortunate _ there are plenty of old farmhouses and barns that are collapsing. There is always a need to salvage things before they are lost or destroyed for good.
The disadvantages are not so much for this area as for the business. Television shows that highlight the amount of money people can get for old items gives people false expectations for the amount of value something in their possession is worth.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
My business is different from any others for a number of reasons so there really is no competition. I recycle, reuse and re-purpose items. I have an intriguing and orderly shop with very reasonable prices and the inventory constantly changes.
I am not an antique dealer but I do have antiques so there is always the potential for customers to find something of much greater value than what price I am asking, more often that is the case.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
Run! This work is a labor of love because the amount of time that might be needed to get a certain piece up to salable quality can put my wage at about 10 cents an hour. There has to be certain things that do bring in a profit to balance out those that took so much time. Someone considering this field of work would need to know when an antique is too delicate or too valuable for them to handle and recognize when it should be turned over to someone who is a true expert with antiques.
Having a real sense of curiosity and plenty of patience is also necessary in this line of work.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail email@example.com.