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Rina Belanger and Angie Guzzardo have been friends for 13 years. They share easy-going attitudes, upbeat dispositions and an affinity for antiquing, refinishing old furniture and what they like to call "barn picking." So over a glass of wine one one summer evening they decided to go into business together. That night, The Vintage Market was born, and they began a roller-coaster ride journey as small business owners.
"The Vintage Market is a flea market-style, upscale shopping experience," Belanger explained. "We feature everything you can imagine: furniture, home decor, vintage finds, antiques, farmhouse, salvage — the list goes on and on."
Their first market in 2014 was just 30 vendors in a small outdoor park in Michigan. Soon after, they moved to a bigger space and 10,000 people showed up. Clearly, they were on to something.
They began scouting fairgrounds around Michigan and Ohio and got interest from vendors all around the country. They started holding regular events year round and continued scaling up quickly. In 2018, they opened a brick-and-mortar store in Wyandotte, Michigan. Their dreams were on track.
Then the coronavirus changed everything. "Our largest market was 30,000 people," said Guzzardo. "COVID hit us hard because we can't have these events with all these people coming together right now."
The pandemic struck at The Vintage Market's core business model of bringing lots of sellers and buyers together in one place. Belanger and Guzzardo were naturally concerned, but the idea of giving up never crossed their minds. They leaned into updating their web presence, building online sales, keeping the doors open to their physical store with limited capacity and, perhaps most important, running Wyandotte's weekly farmers market, which in Michigan is considered an essential business.
"The community here in Wyandotte has wrapped its arms around us," Guzzardo said. "They have done everything in their power to help us survive here."
The friends have faced one challenge after another and found a way to keep moving forward. Guzzardo's husband had a tough battle with COVID-19 but has fully recovered. And while the prospect of large gatherings still feels a long time coming, they're committed to making it work.
"We stay positive, always optimistic," Belanger said. "We don't want it to get the best of us so we try to remain positive and do everything we can to make it successful."