COLUMBIA, SC — Kimberly Gagliardi spent the first 20 years of her work career as a labor-and-delivery nurse.
Now, the Wisconsin native is nurturing a new project – a Pontiac antiques mall that she started less than two years ago and has grown to 8,500 square feet and nearly 60 dealers. The shop – Ivy House – is tucked into a Northeast Richland strip mall at 10511 Two Notch Road that has become an enclave for crafty entrepreneurs.
Gagliardi, 46, had loved antique and vintage pieces since an old oak table in horrible condition caught her eye at age 18.
“My mom refurbished it for me and, from that point on, I was hooked,” she said.
Gagliardi’s husband took a job transfer to Columbia five years ago as the Great Recession was just beginning, and she took a job with Providence Hospital Northeast. But her husband – seeing her love for antiques – encouraged her to open a shop.
“I kept saying, ‘Let’s just wait for the economy to get better,’ ” Gagliardi said. “It didn’t.”
So she took a “leap of faith” and opened a 1,200-square-foot shop closer to Columbia along Two Notch Road in late 2011. Within the first six months, she was expanding. Late last year, she moved to an even bigger space in Pontiac and, earlier this month, she expanded for the third time since opening the store.
“It’s truly been a blessing,” she said.
The shop features an eclectic mix of antiques, vintage and handcrafted items. Dealers rent out rooms or shelf space in the shop, making each twist and turn of the store a new adventure as it wends its way through 8,500 square feet. Visitors will find an array of goods: an antique steamer trunk, a ceramic terrier-shaped planter, an old Texaco sign, tables made from old wooden pallets and even a $19 framed 2-foot-by-3-foot poster of the original cast of the TV show “Beverly Hills 90210.”
The store displays goods from local woodworkers and artists, people who have picked up items at auctions or estate sales and crafters who sell their goods online on eBay but want a physical location.
Each nook has a different name.
Bratenella Boutique at the front of the shop features colorful displays of antiques, china sets and crafts, such as dolls the owner makes in the image of the child who will be receiving it.
Korny Korner has an antique wooden butter churn for $25 and a set of old wooden tricycles.
That Vintage Vibe has an enamel 1950s porcelain-topped white table trimmed in red for $180.
The Atomic Owl has a 1969 green Schwinn bicycle for $249.99.
Gagliardi’s 10-year-old son has his own space, Junkin’ Jack. And her husband has a space near the back of the store that he calls The Jerk Store after a popular Seinfeld episode. He stocks it with what Gagliardi calls “mantiques,” such as a row of old movie theater chairs and an antique early beverage crock for $265.
Even with the 60 dealers showcased at Ivy House, Gagliardi said she still has more than 60 dealers on a waiting list.
She said running the shop – from her Mason jar accounting system to bartering with dealers to get a few hours off – is a different kind of stress than working as a nurse in labor and delivery. But running the shop feels like what she is supposed to be doing.
“I’ve just always been drawn to older stuff,” she said.
And she’s always been crafty.
Years ago, Gagliardi stopped to ask a farmer who was tearing down his barn if she could have some of the wood. She used it to make a large desk for her husband that they still use in their home today.
When the family moved to Columbia, they chose a house with a small outbuilding so she could work on projects, such as refurbishing furniture. The building had ivy growing all over the outside walls, hence the name Ivy House for her shop.
Gagliardi has banded together with other creative shopkeepers in the strip center, dubbing their strip “The Shoppes at Pontiac – A Creative Destination.” In addition to Ivy House, the strip center includes The Exchange Consignment, Fabric 101, Time and Again Fine Used Furniture and A Florist and More.
The stores work together for holiday open houses, spring sales and other events. The fourth Friday of each month – including tonight -- they stay open until 7 p.m. with special sales and refreshments available for purchase from the Wurst Wagon food truck or the nearby Pontiac House of Pizza.
Banding together was a way to help each of the small business owners and let people know the collection of like-minded stores is there, Gagliardi said.
“It’s a destination shopping area,” she said.