For our November spotlight, we spoke with John Regan, owner of Cota Street Antiques, a retailer and wholesaler of antique furniture located in Shelton, Washington.
Cota Street Antiques specializes in antique furniture from the Jacobian, Edwardian, Victorian, and art deco time periods. Cota Street Antiques’ mission is to source and offer quality antiques at a price that can compete with big box stores. John travels to England to source the high-quality, well-made, functional vintage hardwood furniture items and brings them back to the states for the niche antique community.
Can you tell me a little bit about Cota Street Antiques and what all you offer?
Normally, I go to England every six months. While I’m in England, I rent a Luton truck. I go to various places to buy antique furniture and bring it back to my warehouse space in England.
When I have enough furniture to fill a shipping container, I ship it back to the U.S. Our Washington store is a 7,000 square foot warehouse that is also a wholesale and retail store.
Cota Street Antiques is a niche business, but everyone is welcome here. A lot of people think that they have to commit to buying when they go to a furniture store. But, everyone is invited to visit. No one has to buy anything. We are an outing for people to come and see what we have. It’s exciting to see. You don’t have to be serious about wanting something.
What was your inspiration behind opening and running an antique business?
You know, there is a market for things that you couldn’t make even if you wanted to because we’re just not capable of producing the same detail today. We get customers from great distances to see what we have because there’s a market for it.
I’ve been in this business for years in various forms. I’ve developed antique malls and been in other associated antique businesses.
I started Cota Street Antiques as my retirement business. I’m 74 years old, and I wanted to travel and buy anything I want. I have a lot of fun finding things I love, getting great deals, and bringing items to customers.
When I started this business, I expected about $4,000 in sales per month. But, most months we have been doing at least four or five times that amount.
What is your favorite part of running your own business?
My favorite part is the travel. I do the buying of the antiques, and I get to meet new people. I get to go to England, and visit warehouses, auctions, and different antique shows. I like making deals, too. I’ve always enjoyed the buying aspect of this business.
Are there any antique pieces that you would love to find and sell? If so, what are they?
I don’t think so. I buy for the market in the states and what I know will sell. Typically, that means furniture from the 1890s through the 1930s. Jacobian, Edwardian, Victorian, and art deco pieces are very popular. Oak and mahogany also have a good following. So, I buy for the market.
But occasionally, I find a furniture piece made in the 17th century that has no market. I love the style, history, types of wood, and types of joinery in these pieces. I just bought a quite amazing 17th-century desk. I was attracted to it because of what it is rather than because I can sell it.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you face as a business owner?
Right now, shipping is the biggest obstacle. You can see it in the news, and the problems are really unreal. I have a container that was supposed to arrive in mid-September. The closest the container got was Vancouver, British Columbia. We didn’t have an open port in Seattle to get it, so it’s now on its way to China. I have two other containers in England that I cannot ship here at any price because no shipping companies are going to Seattle. And, there are 80 ships waiting to get into port in Los Angeles.
All aspects of shipping are insurmountable right now, too. There are delays and trucking issues. If we could get a container into port in Los Angeles, we wouldn’t have a truck to drive it here.
I get calls every day asking if the container has arrived. But, I have no idea when it will get there.
How does Patriot’s Full Service Payroll help you run your business?
I like that it’s a simple solution. To me, it makes sense to delegate things that are routine and predictable. This gives me more time to focus on opportunities.
So, what I like about Patriot is the reliability. I know my two employees will get paid on schedule and that the work will be done. And, I know I won’t have any problems with the state or federal forms.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?
I got my MBA in marketing many years ago, and there are a lot of theories about what makes for successful marketing. But, I think the most important part is a successful product.
A successful product, the right product, can sell anywhere. We have a product we sell on the back street in a small town that’s not near the highway, and it really sells. But, we sell to a small piece of a much larger market. So, we’re doing a good job of focusing on a very specific area of need.
We’re not worrying about advertising or location to carry us. Our product does that. So, I am proud of that.
What advice would you give to other business owners or those looking to start their own business?
If you’re looking at other successful businesses, you’re looking in the wrong place. Don’t copy what someone else is doing. Be new and unique.
I’ve had other businesses throughout the years. My biggest business was a factory outlet that I sold 23 years ago. It did incredible business.
I also opened the first antique mall in Snohomish, Washington. It’s still operating. It was new and unique, and it was successful.
And Cota Street Antiques opened in this location in 2006, but it was in another location on a larger scale for years before that.
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