Shauna Diliberto started collecting vintage clothes while on an adventurous and inspirational cross-country trip with her friend three+ years ago. It was then that she discovered what she was destined to do: sell vintage clothing!
FF: I was introduced to your pop-up business, maeflowers vintage, several months ago from a mutual friend of ours. I am excited to sit down with you today to learn more about it. Tell me, when did you host your first event?
SD: It was 6 months ago. I moved back from Syracuse from NYC in October 2013 to start maeflowers and hosted the first pop-up in December.
Why did you choose to move back to Syracuse to start your business?
I am from Syracuse, born and raised and I moved to NYC 11 years ago for college. I stayed there after school and worked for Macy’s merchandising group for about seven years. I merchandised, did a little design and a lot of development for the Martha Stewart collection, so I am big into home stuff! My husband moved down there and then we starting planning our wedding in Syracuse, and every time we came back to plan the wedding, I just fell in love with it city more and more and more. I thought I would never come back to Syracuse! But everything just got “cooler” here. And then a short time after the wedding I told my husband that I wanted to move back to Syracuse and when the timing clicked, we did it.
So you quit your job, picked up everything and moved to Syracuse!
Yea, I quit my day job cause I really wanted to sell vintage. I had been collecting pieces for, at that point probably three years and it was crowding our small NYC apartment. And my closet was full of vintage pieces that didn’t even fit me, cause I was buying all sizes, knowing that I was meant to sell vintage.
Ha! You probably have a lot more space to store your collection now, huh?!
Yes! Our third bedroom is my closet/maeflowers storage/random stuff. It’s hard for me to find what’s what so I am trying to work through all that stuff right now. I need to get my own studio space, that’s what I should be doing at this point. But I haven’t figured out what maeflowers looks like; I am still building the brand in my head.
So while you are building your brand, you are introducing the community to maeflowers by hosting pop-up shops. Is this business model working for you?
It’s all really just been crazy. When I first came back I thought I wanted to own my own store, but at the same time I didn’t have the capital to support that and since pop-up’s were so big in the city, I thought they would quickly catch on here and for the most part I’ve been successful getting the word out, the buzz out and people are excited about it, but it is still a hard way to make a living, like just randomly selling a few skirts every couple of weekend. So I need to figure out what the long-term thing is going to be, whether it’s getting studio and selling out of that space. I think my end goal now is to have a space where a bunch of vendors collaborate and we all sell together but I am not really sure where that’s going to go yet.
I’ve done most of the pop-up shops in the community room at my Aunt’s coffee shop, Café 407 in Liverpool. I typically don’t like to book way in advance, so when I feel the impulse to host a shop, I check to see if there’s a cancelation. I have the inventory to be spontaneous. Recently my friend Liz connected with Adam Gold who owns Funk-n-Waffles and he was talking about his new space that was opening up downtown. She told him about my pop-up shops and Adam graciously loaned me the space for a couple of days in April. He literally gave me a key and was like “go crazy.” So I scheduled a shop that following Wednesday and Thursday and it was awesome, I had so much fun! I didn’t make any money but it was a good experience.
What is the long-term vision for maeflowers?
I’ve been doing a lot of research about the way retail works in San Francisco (I feel like that is the hub of trends, more so than Brooklyn or Manhattan, honestly I feel like San Fran is onto something) and they’ve been doing a lot of collaborating of vendors in big spaces and then they also host a ton of DIY classes. I love the idea of like all these artists coming together and being in charge of their section of the "space" and then in the evenings having "DIY-ing" events where we can all hang out. That is what I would ideally like to happen at maeflowers.
Since you’ve been in town, have you met anyone who shares this vision and could be a potential partner?
There are a few existing businesses such as Curator of Cool which sells vintage furniture in Liverpool who would compliment my vision but I am not even sure if she would be interested…but I see someone doing second hand furniture, I would love to have someone who does jewelry, something different – I feel like I see the same jewelry everywhere I go – and then I would love another vintage clothing vendor. I would love someone who we could breed off each other. I am all about businesses breeding off each other.
From a customer perspective I think people would enjoy going to a space where there were multiple vendors rather than just one. Armory is lacking this! If you go to Austin, TX, there are strips of vintage stores and it’s a community and everyone supports each other and promotes each other’s businesses. I want to see that in Syracuse more.
This will be your first time vending at the Funky Flea event. Are you ready?
Yes, this will actually be my first real flea market selling at ever. And I am really excited!!! I have to get a tent, that’s what everyone keeps telling me, and I need to make a fitting room. I met Jamie Owens from SoSu Vintage randomly recently and she is obsessed with the Funky Flea! She was the one who told me that I had to sell at it.
Should we be on the look out for any maeflowers vintage pop-up shops this summer?
I am currently trying to use an empty retail space on S. Franklin where Spy Babies was, but I haven’t heard back from the landlord yet. I have to push, push, push! There’s also a space that’s been recently vacated next to Starbuck’s on Walton that I am hoping to get into for a few days cause that is a really good space.
Back in April I went to the CNY Wise Conference and I was actually overwhelmingly surprised – there were so many amazing women there that I was once again super inspired. There I met Abigail from Lofo – I went to her new business break through session where she talked about her experiences opening a business and I immediately fell in love with her and what she was saying. She’s offered to let me use the café for a night and she even said she would invite all her friends. I am meeting people like Abigail who are super excited to collaborate.