The Hillbilly Hipster owned by Jeremy has been on my radar for a while. As an admirer of vintage modernist jewelry and design, I naturally found my way to The Hillbilly Hipster and love looking at Jeremy’s collection.
It is our pleasure to interview Jeremy and find out among other things: Where does he get such wonderful stylish pieces? How does he maintain his professionalism while (it is obvious) having so much fun? And how did he come up with the name “The Hillbilly Hipster?”
Margie: Jeremy, as I said, I am a fan of your shop. How and why did you get started collecting Vintage Jewelry?
Jeremy: My parents were antique dealers when I was growing up. My father owned a filling station in Bentonville, Arkansas called The Arkansawyer. My mother used the (very large) house in the back of the property as an antique store. It was FILLED to the brim with everything imaginable. We traveled around the country doing antique shows (when they were still incredible affairs) and our booths were easily the largest. My mother specialized in antique/vintage jewelry.
The entire front of the booth (at least five or six booths worth) was one long table of jewelry cases. As a child, I don’t remember caring too much about those cases, but oh, to have those now! I do remember that one entire room of our house was dedicated to her jewelry room. It was literally crammed full with plastic tubs of jewelry stacked to the ceiling. In the center of the room, was her work table where she would clean and repair her pieces.
Margie: What pathways led you to open The Hillbilly Hipster on Etsy?
Jeremy: Years later after my father passed and my mother got out of the business for health reasons, she still had an incredible amount of jewelry, My mother didn’t know how to liquidate it. I offered to post some of her pieces online if she shipped them to me. The Hillbilly Hipster was born in 2011. Those first pieces didn’t really sell all that well. Back then I didn’t really know what I was doing and the shop went dormant for a few years. Then in 2016 during the slow season in my professional portrait photography business, I decided to reinstate the shop to make a little money on the side. It’s funny to look back at the items I sold and the way I photographed pieces then. My style and the quality of items have changed drastically since that time.
Margie: Jeremy, one of the things I love about your shop is its general style and the curated items. What is your favorite type of jewelry, period of jewelry and/or designer? Why does it inspire you?
Jeremy: When I first started the shop again in 2016 I didn’t really have a clear direction or style that inspired me. I mainly just looked for pieces that I thought were fun and that I could get a good deal on. Now that I am curating my shop more, I am drawn to modernist pieces, especially by Scandinavian, American Modernists, or Mexican artisans and designers. Georg Jensen and his contemporaries are some of my favorites but it’s really like choosing which of your pets are your favorites! I adore the American Modernists such as Frances Holmes Boothby, Ed Weiner, Betty Cooke, and Paul Lobel.
Mexican modernist designers such as Antonio Pineda or Enrique Ledesma are also favorites. I am thinking heavily about niching my store down to only vintage modernist pieces. I absolutely love the mid-century design. (My home is a testament to this). I adore the clean, simple lines of the modernist jewelry designers as well as some of the over the top designs I’ve run across over the years.
Margie: I’ve been wondering about this. Jeremy, please tell us the story about how you named, The Hillbilly Hipster?
Jeremy: The name came to mind immediately back in 2011 when I created the shop to sell pieces for my mother. Being from Arkansas, “Hillbilly” just had to be there and I love alliteration so “Hipster” was a good choice. I also enjoy the dichotomy of the two words together. Recently, however, I have been toying with the idea of changing the name to reflect the more high-end nature of my pieces.
Margie: What other things would you like us to know about you and/or The Hillbilly Hipster?
Jeremy: I mentioned before that I am a professional portrait photographer. I think my photography experience helped me when it was time to photograph the pieces in my collection. I started out by staging each piece in a scene. The style was too cluttered for me. So about a month into having the shop reopened, I changed my photography style to a much cleaner modern look and haven’t changed since.
Margie: When you look for an item for The Hillbilly Hipster, what are you looking for and where do you look?
Jeremy: I am much more deliberate nowadays with the things I purchase for my shop. I heavily curate my pieces and really only buy things I absolutely love. Some people say this is a bad way to run a business but I have been told by many that I have impeccable taste. I trust the way I do things and this works just fine for me.
Also, being a man I can’t really wear most of the pieces I have so I am in no danger of keeping things for myself! As for where I look, the answer is everywhere. I buy most of my pieces online. Whether it’s eBay, Goodwill, or (my favorite) online estate sales, I always find great pieces this way. My husband also travels a lot for work so I tag along when he goes to interesting places (usually overseas) and pick up a few pieces each time I go.
Margie: Have you ever found any surprises after you bought something for The Hillbilly Hipster?
Jeremy: Of course! All the time! Some good and some bad. As I purchase the majority of my items sight unseen online, sometimes you get a dud. But I have never had a seller that wasn’t willing to accept a return, so I have not been stuck with items that were not up to my standards. Once I purchased a lot of jewelry for I think $80. Buried within the lot was an 18K ruby brooch. I sold it quite literally immediately upon putting it out at a show. I love surprises like that!
Margie: What do you like about having The Hillbilly Hipster on Etsy?
Jeremy: I enjoy the community and the ability to connect with customers. I get messages all the time and I love helping customers find the perfect piece for them. I also love the Pattern option that Etsy offers. When I am doing shows I like to hand out my card. I let customers know, who may be thinking about a particular piece, that my items are available online and I have a custom website they can go to. It is much more professional in my opinion. Also, how amazing is the new Square integration? It is SO easy to sell items at shows now! I just go into my square application, where all my items are listed with photos for easy sales! I LOVE IT!
Margie: What items do you buy that you have to keep for yourself?
Jeremy: I haven’t kept anything for myself yet. When I do come across pieces that I love, I wear them for a bit; but they are always still in my shop. When they sell, I give them up. I have worn a couple of my great modernist brooches as lapel pins to events. I must admit, there was a gorgeous Alfred Karram sterling silver tiger’s eye ring that fit me beautifully that I wore for a while. Also, I have quite a few pairs of incredible Georg Jensen cufflinks that I may have to wear one of these days!
Margie: What have you found is your best source for information when you are researching an item?
Jeremy: Honestly, I think researching pieces is my favorite part of this whole thing. I love learning about different designers and their pieces. I also enjoy the history and provenance of my pieces. That being said, sometimes you just can’t find information on a particular piece. It is very important to just be honest with your customers. It’s quite possible you may learn something from them! I find most of my information online. I am a member of different forums and Facebook groups dedicated to jewelry identification. These groups are invaluable resources for me!
Margie: How do you market The Hillbilly Hipster?
Jeremy: At the moment I use Etsy’s marketing tools such as Google and Etsy advertising. I get most of my business from that. I also hand out my card with my Pattern site to all my customers at the local shows I attend. Another fun way to market has been to loan some pieces to local theatre companies as costume pieces with a free ad in the program. I enjoy seeing my pieces up on stage! I have also sponsored a few contestants of the Miss and Mrs. Colorado pageants with photo shoot spreads in the pageant program wearing my vintage jewelry!
Margie: It is hard to develop good customer service online. Is there something you do special for your customers and if so, what is it?
Jeremy: I have the Etsy for Sellers app on my phone and when a customer messages me regarding an item I respond immediately. Customers appreciate the promptness of my replies. I also run a monthly contest for my customers. On my invoices, I mention that if they take a photo of themselves enjoying their pieces and post them to their favorite social media site and tag my shop, they are entered into a contest to win a $50 gift certificate to the shop. It’s great advertising for me and its fun for my customers. So it is a win-win!
Margie: What is the best advice you can give to someone else about selling vintage items?
Jeremy: Oh my goodness, please take the absolute best images of your pieces that you possibly can! This doesn’t mean that you need to be a professional photographer by any means, just take clutter-free, in-focus, well-lit photos! The easiest way to take great photos if you don’t have any artificial light is to set up a table by a window that has a sheer fabric covering it. Put a neutral colored poster board down and shoot your jewelry on that. Use a white poster board set up opposite of the window to reflect the light back on your piece. USE ALL ten images for each listing! Show the piece at all different angles and ALWAYS show the maker’s mark if there is one!
Margie: What is the best advice anyone gave you about selling vintage items?
Jeremy: When I first opened the shop, I sold my pieces for about double the price that I purchased them. My business just wasn’t growing. I spoke with many different dealers and discovered that to really grow your business you need to sell your items for 4-6 times the purchase price. Now, this doesn’t mean to go crazy and just price all your items this way, but to really research the worth and market value. Only purchase merchandise that you can feasibly mark up 4-6 times your purchase price. I don’t do this 100% of the time (especially for pieces that I absolutely love) but it does keep me in a budget and out of trouble. Boy, have I seen my business grow exponentially!
Margie: Jeremy, I’ve got one last question. Out of all the beautiful items in your shop, what is your favorite piece of jewelry and why?
Jeremy: I would have to say my favorite piece is the Paul Lobel fox brooch. I’ve never seen another brooch like it. Paul Lobel is one of my favorite modernist designers. When I purchased it someone had covered the entire piece with white paint. I meticulously restored it to its original sterling finish and absolutely adore it!
It doesn’t surprise me that Jeremy would recognize the beauty in a Paul Lobel fox brooch or spend hours getting the white paint off. That attention to detail and craft seem to be a foundation stone for The Hillbilly Hipster. This dedication shows in Jeremy’s choice of items, his photographs and his service to his customers.