What’s new in antiques?
The answer is Swappers, a vintage market that recently opened below Abbey Carpet & Floor on Main Street in Kalispell.
Trina and Blake Sanford opened their new store on April 15, but didn’t hold an official grand opening until June 15. Trina said they wanted to move in as many of their 30 dealers as possible before celebrating the opening. Now, the 5,000-square-foot space is filled with a menagerie of handmade goods, vintage items and rare finds.
After years of selling antiques online and in two small booths in the Kalispell Antiques Market, Blake said the ephiphany was this: “Let’s just open a store.”
Trina, who brings the business savvy to the enterprise, cautioned her husband, “If you’re going to do this, you’re going to be serious.”
Blake has been an antique hobbyist since 2002, while Trina works as a business analyst for National Flood Services and received a business degree from DeVry University. She still works for National Flood Services when she’s not in the shop, while Blake now works in the store full time.
Bringing Swappers to life began with finding the right space. The Sanfords looked at options in places such as Missoula, but Kalispell offered an ideal location because of the area’s interest in antiques and proximity to Trina’s family in Libby and her husband’s original home in Canada.
They knew they wanted a space smaller than their 8,000-square-foot neighbor, Kalispell Antiques Market, Trina said, but they also wanted space for at least 20 vendors. Once refurbished, the basement of the Abbey Floor & Carpet building offered a prime location, ample space, bright lighting for a basement space and a freight elevator for vendors to bring down their bigger items like furniture.
After Abbey Floor & Carpet cleaned out the storage items that had been occupying the area, Blake built all of the individual booths that line the store.
The next step was filling the booths with vendors. About a month before the store opened in April, Trina started recruiting sellers of handmade and vintage items through ads on Craigslist and Facebook. She said she got an overwhelming response, and now nearly all of the spots in the store have been filled.
Many of the vendors in Swappers are new to selling their items in a store, and Trina said she has had to use her “discretion about what can be sold. We’re not a museum. We’re not a thrift store.” But she said, “we have an amazing relationship with our dealers.”
She also said the community response has been positive, especially since the grand opening. The June 15 event welcomed a few hundred people to the store. Trina said it was, “nonstop all day, except for maybe 10 minutes.”
She thinks Swappers sets itself apart from other antique stores in the Flathead Valley with its unique offerings. The booths in Swappers sell items ranging from hand-sewn fabrics to refurbished furniture.
“A lot of people here think antiques are just for women,” she said, but she believes Swappers’ collection proves there is something for everyone.
They are also proud of their Made in Montana offerings, and Trina personally developed her own tea blends that occupy one of the store’s many booths.
She insisted all of the antique vendors in the area are friends. Even as the Sanfords develop their own store, they continue to maintain their booths in the Kalispell Antiques Market.
“People are excited to hit all the antique stores in the area,” she said.
Swappers is located at 11 Main St. S., Suite C, in Kalispell. Call 406-261-5299.
Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at email@example.com or 758-4459.