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What’s a vintage collective? How these modern retail spaces riff on the antique-mall concept
A shopper browses the inventory at Boho Chachkies, a multi-vendor vintage collective in downtown Toronto. Photo courtesy Boho Chachkies

What’s a vintage collective? How these modern retail spaces riff on the antique-mall concept


Like a modern, mini version of an antique mall, vintage collectives offer a multi-vendor experience in one space. Find out key differences between the two retail models, and learn why collectives are popping up in urban centres everywhere

Whether you’re a novice or veteran vintage hunter, there are fewer joys than a day at the antique mall, scouring booth after booth for the perfect treasures to bring home.

But with most antique malls sprawled out over tens of thousands of square feet, for the urban dweller they usually require exactly that — a day to visit, because they’re located on the outskirts of town where there’s more available (and affordable) space.

With increasing consumer interest in shopping secondhand, the antique mall model — which sees multiple vendors set up in one location, much like a traditional shopping mall but with booths subbing for storefronts — has been due for a shakeup.

Enter the vintage collective.

What is the difference between an antique mall and a vintage collective?

A vintage collective is a secondhand-world spin on the retail collective, a collaborative space where multiple independent retailers sell their wares under one roof.

Like an antique mall, each vendor at a vintage collective maintains their own booth, shelf or area of the store, maintaining their individual identity and inventory selection.

Items are marked with a vendor code and the customer completes their transaction at a central cash.

In most cases, both antique malls and vintage collectives are run by a proprietor who charges booth fees and takes a commission on items sold.

Whereas an antique mall may feature anywhere from 20 to 100-plus vendors and focus specifically on antiques and vintage, a vintage collective might sign between 10 and 30 vendors, meaning they’re more likely to tuck into existing storefronts in urban centres. They usually feature vintage sellers as core vendors alongside other merchandise.

Boho Chachkies is one such space in the heart of downtown Toronto.

When owner Joy Zubair announced the opening of her bricks-and-mortar collective, which shares the name of her Etsy shop, in vintage store–centric Kensington Market, within a day and a half she’d filled the 25 available spots with sellers who’d been searching for booth space in the city.

There’s currently a waitlist of more than 300 vendors.

Joy didn’t expect to have to turn vendors away within just two days, but says it speaks to the demand for such spaces in the core. “It just blew up,” she says.

Shoppers explore the vintage advertising selection from Unvaulted Vintage at the Boho Chachkies collective. Photo courtesy Boho Chachkies

Catering to a different customer

Occupying the main floor of a character house–turned commercial building, Boho Chachkies appeals to today’s shopper: thumping disco tunes blast through the speakers, incense burns in a corner, patterned rugs make it feel like your cool friend’s bohemian apartment.

A big central pouf acts as a perch to try on a pair of perfectly worn-in vintage cowboy boots.

All the shelving units match, making it look like a retail store. Customers who come in always note how clean the space is, Joy says. “I think it’s because it’s so cohesive.”

A few blocks away at Bazaar Toronto, another multi-vendor collective housing nearly 100 vintage and craft vendors, it’s a similar story: cohesive wood shelving, all-white pegboard and primary-colour accents bring the entire upper floor together, despite each vendor maintaining their own disparate inventory.

Bazaar Toronto, a multi-vendor space with vintage vendors and makers. Photo: The Vintage Seeker

In an antique mall, most of the fixtures are brought in and maintained by the vendors, so there’s little overall cohesion between booths. Because they are spread out over larger spaces, booth sizes vary greatly, too.

It works for that model, because customers come to antique malls with the intention of embarking on a treasure hunt. Some booths are highly curated, whereas others are set up to encourage digging through the inventory in search of the perfect piece.

Vintage collectives cater to antique-mall aficionados as well, but also to a different customer — urban shoppers seeking a boutique experience.

Handmade or craft vendors often round out the secondhand vendor lineup at a vintage collective, making it a one-stop shopping spot.

In the basement of vintage and maker collective Bazaar Toronto, larger walk-in booths echoing the traditional antique-mall style allow for about 10 vendors to fully decorate their spaces, but string lights criss-crossing the walkway and a fairly uniform booth size update the experience.

Like an antique mall, the vintage collective model lends itself to a wide range of price points — at Boho Chachkies, a rare brass skull for $400 shares a shelf with decorative trinkets at $5 or $10 apiece.

Shouldering shared costs

Joy, who maintains her own shelf space in store, says her main driver for opening a vintage collective was because she couldn’t carry the rent for commercial space as a single business. “With the prices in Toronto, there was no way I could do this on my own,” she says.

Once she found a space she loved, she worked backwards, measuring the floor plan to calculate the average size of a shelf times how many people she could fit and what she’d need to charge in order to make rent.

“I wanted to bring people in who didn’t always have a chance at the other places,” she says, referring to the practice of some spaces that use a vendor’s amount of active selling time or activity on social media as conditions of acceptance.

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One of her vendors, for example, recently had a baby and was having trouble getting booth space in the city because she hadn’t been consecutively selling for two years. She’s now maintaining a shelf and rack at Boho Chachkies.

“If I like you and I like your product, I want you in store,” says Joy. “I don’t care about [social media] following.”

She tries to curate a mix of vendors so there’s something for everyone — clothing, plants, posters and ephemera, giftable items and plenty of decor, making it a quick favourite for prop stylists and production designers who do their vintage sourcing in Kensington Market.

After a couple of months being open, Joy got a sense of what customers were looking for and cleared out her storage area at the back of the shop to add another five vendors specifically focused on the perennially popular Y2K aesthetic.

Boho Chachkies owner Joy Zubair in her multi-vendor shop. Photo: The Vintage Seeker

Communicating shopper needs

The collective model caters to how a customer wants to shop, Joy says. Come in with a friend and there’s something for everyone with 30 vendors curating their own inventories. The variety on offer at a vintage collective translates to a higher chance of foot traffic for the vendors, too.

Joy previously worked for MAC Cosmetics as a retail manager, and spends time on merchandising the store to flow. Shelves flank the sides of the shop, and a central table offers space for multiple vendors who carry planters, jewellery, prints and smaller items.

“I knew that if I opened the store, it’d be successful with the proper vendors because I know customer service,” she says.

She’s at the shop most days, though employs part-time help now, too. And with her shelf acting as an additional stake in the shop, Joy is invested in the success of her vendors.

Soulbird Vintage and Decor by the Decade (far right) in the Boho Chachkies multi-vendor space. Screengrab: The Vintage Seeker

Marija Djordjevec, proprietor of Decorative Book Bundles and a vendor at Boho Chachkies, says she’s grateful to be a part of the shop. “The store owner, Joy, has our best interests at heart and the other vendors are so supportive of each other.”

Keeping a close eye on what is selling helps Joy maintain that strong relationship. “I know what the customers want,” she says. “I tell the vendors, ‘You have to change your stock up every week. People who live in the area are coming every single weekend and they want to see new stuff.’”

She uses a group chat to offer advice on what products to bring in, and to hunt down customer requests.

“As a reseller myself, I know what they need to hear, and I tell them everything they need to know,” she says.

“Sweaters were selling like crazy one week. Blankets were selling. Boots. Every week, it’s different stuff. I always want to make them money. The goal is for them to be successful, so it’s anything I can do to help.”

Some of the vendors are doing “insanely well” says Joy, because they keep up with what is trending — and in a downtown location in Canada’s biggest city, that’s important. “If something isn’t working, you have to change it up,” she says.

The shop floor at Well Worn General, a vintage collective in Toronto’s east end. Gifts and maker items share the stage with vintage clothing and accessories. Photo: The Vintage Seeker

A community-centric model

The vintage collective model is attractive for vendors — more affordable than a bricks-and-mortar store, with booth fees helping to share the burden of rent, utilities, maintenance and risk.

“Collectives are an opportunity for small businesses to sell their stuff and not have to pay pop-up market prices,” says Joy.

“You pay the price here for the whole month that would be the same cost as one or two days at a pop-up market.”

Vintage collectives also offer a passive income stream, which is ideal for small business owners with other sales channels on the go.

Even if the vendors don’t always see each other when they are restocking their shelves, there’s a greater sense of community with a shared model.

Boho Chachkies vendor Marija, of Decorative Book Bundles, says being part of a vintage collective has that deeper meaning for her. “It offers a sense of community and combined experience that I couldn’t imagine in a different set up.”

Jewellery from Sleepy Kitty Vintage in the Boho Chachkies shop. Screengrab: The Vintage Seeker

Cross-promotion among the vendors boosts the overall space, and, in the case of Boho Chachkies, Joy maintains a robust social media presence for the store, highlighting her vendors’ wares throughout the day.

With the flexibility of the collective operating as a retail store, Joy aims for the collective to support the local Kensington Market community with events on the shop’s back patio this summer.

Pop-ups in front of the shop are already happening every weekend, weather permitting, featuring Boho Chachkies vendors and visiting shops.

Joy’s also planning a large sidewalk event on May 26 for the first Pedestrian Sunday of the summer, when Kensington Market closes to car traffic on the last Sunday of the month.

“There needs to be more spaces like this because there are too many small businesses without a place to sell,” she says.

Follow Boho Chachkies on Instagram at @bohochachkies.

This article was updated May 1, 2024 to clarify the large range of vendors at an antique mall.


See below for a few more vintage collectives to follow — and for more, visit our Guide to Antique Malls & Vintage Collectives.

Halifax Vintage Co-Op | Halifax, NS

Kept Clothing Collective | Calgary, AB

Goody Mart | Ottawa, ON

Marché Floh | Montreal, QC

The Storehouse | Vancouver, BC

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