The Toronto-based seller chats about slinging vintage with heart
If you visit Niyousha Nejatpour’s Instagram page for her vintage shop and you get the feeling of “home,” there’s good reason — Niyousha curates the selection of decor and kitchenware goodies with her mother, Nahid.
She also photographs the pieces like cherished family heirlooms — and they often are. What started as a way to unload pieces from Nahid’s extensive personal vintage collection has turned into a two-year sourcing adventure otherwise known as Haul of Me Shop.
Here, Niyousha talks about what makes her approach to business with her mom special, and how sustainability is changing shopping habits.
Niyousha Nejatpour: My earliest thrifting memory was going to garage sales and yard sales when we were really young and new to Canada. I was six years old when we moved here from Iran. I’m Persian. And I remember that concept being so foreign — like, here’s this person just selling things literally out of their garage for very cheap prices!
My mom is a big thrifter; she’s always found really cool vintage things. She was the one who sparked my love for vintage items. Eventually it went from having to go around to estate sales and garage sales to actually enjoying that time with her, and getting really excited by the thrill of the hunt and the next treasure.
NN: There’s so many items that [my mom] had that are vintage, thrifted, or from antique stores. It got to the point where she was talking about wanting to get rid of some of those items, and I didn't want to just list them on Kijiji or somewhere like that. I said I’d love for them to go to someone else who I know can really appreciate them.
I really liked the idea of taking photos of them and making them look the best that these items could look. There was a vintage jewellery shop that I was following at the time — Anice Jewellery was kind of the inspiration. She does a lot of really cool Instagram marketing.
So I thought maybe I could come up with a page and we could dedicate that to helping my mom get rid of some of her vintage stuff. Then it led to me also sourcing stuff for the shop.
NN: My mom is definitely my person. She’s my best friend. She’s the person I look up to the most in the whole wide world and I get joy from knowing that I’ve created something that’s just our little thing and that also gives her so much happiness.
It’s so nice to know that 1) she seems really proud of what we’ve built together, and 2) that I’ve been able to cultivate a little bit of her taste.
Growing up, everyone always talked about what a great eye she had and how she could find treasures amongst anything. So when I find something and she says, “That’s a really good find,” I’m like, “I did it!” I have some of that rubbing off on me and I get really excited and happy about that.
NN: I love how sustainable it is. I love that [we’re saving] instead of throwing pieces out or donating them — you hear of stores that have had too many donations and didn’t really know what to do with them, so they had to get rid of some of the donated items.
I love knowing who pieces are going to. I form a bond with most of my customers and have a sense of how much they appreciate the item. They’ll tell me where they’re planning on putting it and it’s nice to be able to know that, especially with a lot of the pieces that belonged to my mom. Because I’m very protective of those. It just helps to know that they’re going to someone who’s going to love them just as much as me.
It’s nice to know people are decorating with things that are already out there and not having to go to the Structubes and the IKEAs — as much as I love IKEA. Seeing some of those IKEA pieces get thrifted and resold is great.
NN: Definitely. Which is interesting, because not a lot of my own circle of friends relate to that. But the more I do the vintage game, it’s getting harder to shop the way I used to shop. If I’m out with friends and we’re going from store to store, it's a lot harder for me to feel drawn to items.
The vintage community has taught me a lot about what the different pieces are, so then the nostalgia is backed by some facts. You gain a deeper appreciation for the items once you know where they were made or how they were made, and how much work went into it. You just don’t find items like that anymore.
You do recognize a difference in quality after a while. You can see why that piece has lasted for as long as it's lasted, versus touching something [new] and knowing that you’ll probably get a year out of it before the quality dips.
NN: Not very well sometimes. I’ve started to learn that if I'm keeping it in storage or if a couple of months have gone by and I haven't been able to do anything with it or put it out anywhere, then I will give it up because I know that it needs to go to another home.
NN: So much joy. It’s just been such a shining light in this very strange and weird time. I felt like I could escape to my own little corner of the internet and focus on putting out pictures of beautiful vintage items and interacting in that community where it’s all so positive and you're just talking about decorating your home, which is where you're now spending all of your time.
People will buy items and they’ll say, this is exactly what I was looking for. I have a customer who bought something for her workstation and she was like, “This has made my workday so much better, and every time I look at it, I get so happy.” It seems like something so small, but knowing that the item has that kind of impact on someone feels so good. It has given me a sense of purpose and something positive to focus on.
NN: I’ve done some Instagram ads. And I’ve learned that being authentic, as cliché as that sounds, is important. I know a lot of people who are mixing their personal lives on the business account. I've tried a little bit of that, but I now know that I like to keep my page focused on vintage items.
So I’m owning that, knowing that I'm not the person who’s going to [share personal things]. That doesn't mean I'm not connecting with people — it’s just figuring out who I want to be on the platform, and then engaging with people.
I was really used to just liking things [with] the like button. But now I know that when someone comments on my page, they actually really like that item. So I try to give that back to people. When I really like something, expressing why what they’ve staged or put together is really meaningful and helps to form connections with other vintage sellers and with my customers.
I’ve shared a little bit more about the fact that me and my mom are doing this together, and I was part of the Not Amazon list right before the holidays. With the movement towards supporting local, we saw a lot of growth coming from that.
NN: The idea that it’s just really easy. That you get something in a store, you plop it down and you sell it for more, and you make a ton of money. There’s so much work that goes into it. There’s a lot of time that you have to dedicate to finding items. There’s a lot of time that goes into cleaning those items up. And then staging them and getting ready for story sales. It’s time and it’s energy.
I think I was even shocked at how much time it was, because it got to the point where my friends and family were like, “If you have a story sale, we’re not hanging out before, because you’re constantly on your phone, you’re preparing things, you’re not really present and you’re stressed out. It’s not a good time.” That plays a part in your pricing.
NN: Research takes so much time and it’s not my favourite part about the job. I’ve definitely had cases where I’ve listed things for cheaper than I should have. And have had other vintage resellers say “Look at the bottom, does it say this? Then don’t list it for the price you listed.”
But you don’t know what to look up necessarily. It’s not always marked like the way you would want it to be, or you’re just kind of putting in random keywords trying to figure out what it is and comparing pictures.
NN: That’s a tough one. Before the pandemic, I was so excited to do a bunch of markets and get out there to meet more people. So that's not happening anytime soon. I would love to focus on that once things get back to normal a little bit.
I think the dream ultimately is to own a vintage store and to be able to run it with my mom and just be surrounded by the pieces all day long and not have to worry about storage and get to meet everyone that comes in and buys the pieces. But I don't know with the retail environment now and after the pandemic how that will shake out.
I definitely want to grow but I also am really enjoying where the shop is at now, because I feel like it's not overwhelming. I still get so much joy from it. And I’m still able to communicate with people and not see my customers as a number or be stressed out by that process.
NN: Getting to know people. I can follow some of my customers back and know what their daily lives are like. Or like what their decorating style is like. I have customers that will share their other vintage purchases from other shops and they’ll be like, “Look what I found, I thought you'd be so proud of me.”
Instagram is obviously a huge app and there can be a lot of negativity on it. And that was kind of my hesitation with even starting a shop on Instagram. I’m a fairly private person and I was like, I don't want a public profile. But it's just such a positive space and so it's nice to be surrounded by that and still feel like you get to know people, even though we're all behind the screen.
NN: A lot of people think of vintage and antiques as old, outdated items that you don't want in your home, or that your mom had and you’re glad she donated, or that she’s tried to force you to take on!
I love that people are able to shed light on the fact that thrifting or antiquing doesn’t need to be boring, old dusty stuff. You can find really beautiful things. I think that’s a good thing and hopefully will help people get out there and save more items from ending up in a landfill.
NN: I have an environmental drive. Sometimes I’ll be walking on the street and you see a garbage bin and it's full of garbage, and there's three bags next to it. When you envision something like that and think about what's happening on a larger scale, it's really concerning.
I don’t know if the fact that my parents are immigrants and that we came here at a young age has impacted my desire to give those things a second life. But I think there’s so many things that don't need to go into landfills that are ending up there because we're just obsessed with the next new shiny thing.
Talking about how thrifting isn’t yucky or gross helps. There can definitely be some gross elements in it! But these pieces are beautiful, and they can be displayed in your home or used by you. You just gotta clean them up.
NN: I was shocked starting off the shop and realizing that so many of my followers are young and that these pieces appealed to them. I just never thought that’s what the youth were into these days! But it’s so nice to see.
There’s a hashtag that says #TheFutureIsVintage, and I honestly feel like it represents where things are going. There’s new people getting into the game. And people want to share what they found online and are proud of what they found.
Niyousha Nejatpour, Founder, Haul of Me Shop
This interview has been condensed.