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Small Business Saturday at Southwood Antiques

Southwood Antiques was established in 2017 for antique aficionados by owners Gary J. Raffia, Richard Caravello, & Margo Ross .

Written by
Sherri Hall

Photography by
Jasmine Jones

The Southwood Antiques and Marketplace is a new and up and coming business located right in Enfield, Connecticut. Owners Gary J. Raffia, Richard Caravello, & Margo Ross established the antique store in 2017 for antique aficionados. If the name Raffia sounds familiar it’s because The Southwood Antiques and Marketplace is located right off of Raffia Road, in the heart of the Raffia mini shopping plaza.

Southwood Antiques is a place where different collectors come together with their unique or rare finds and rent space from the owners. Each booth is unique and has a wide range of items that are just waiting to be snagged up by experienced and inexperienced collectors alike. If you are looking for a rare find or simply want to purchase items that are a “blast from the past”, then Southwood Antiques is definitely a place you want to visit.

Aislin caught up with the owners as well as some of the booth owners to speak to them about the various items in their booths, along with their experience as antique collectors.

Two of the owners of Southwood Antiques, Richard Caravello (left) and Gary J. Raffia (right).

What made you start Southward Antiques and Marketplace? How did you choose this location?

GARY: Well, I own the shopping complex so that’s why we chose this location. It’s just like a hobby for me, having a bunch of people do this is kind of exciting. Getting the opportunity to move some of our stuff and, you know, look around, see what other people have. It’s interesting! You get a lot of different personalities.

RICHARD: It brings back a lot of memories.

GARY: Every booth is more of the person’s taste.

RICHARD: I did it because I love this kind of stuff. I get a lot of the antiques by cleaning out a lot of houses. So it’s a variety and we repurpose the items. It keeps them out of the trash because a lot of people just throw this stuff away. People clean their houses and a lot of this stuff usually doesn’t get saved.

Is this your first business, or do you have any others?

GARY: I own a tobacco farm with my family. I’ve had businesses in the past, but nothing like this. Like I said, this is more of a hobby for me.

RICHARD: I own a landscaping business, so this is like a hobby for me as well. I like to see things get used, someone’s junk is somebody else’s treasure.

GARY: In his line of work, he gets a lot of interesting things, [referring to Richard] as do I. Once the word is out that you’re doing this people kind of just come to you.

What do you think is the biggest threat to a small business in America today?

GARY: The biggest challenges, more or less? Trying to compete with the big businesses, and trying to compete with internet sales. Well, the internet sales kind of help this business, only because you can market on the internet when you have unique products so to speak. These people try to run retail businesses, a brick and mortar, but with Amazon and internet sales they’re just getting killed. I wouldn’t say competition is a challenge in this business because it’s about having what you got. If you have something that’s different or unique you’re going to move it.

RICHARD: Yeah, and you never know what moves here, it could be a fishing pole or a hatchet.

GARY: That’s just it, one person’s junk is somebody else’s gold. Which is interesting. I find that all the time. I just love doing this, and you have to like doing it. The more people like it, the more interest you see, the better the booths are, and the more advertising you get because a lot of the advertising is just by word of mouth.

Co-Owner, Margo Ross, in her booth.

Tell us about yourself.

MARGO: My parents were antique dealers so I’ve kind of been around this business my whole life. They both passed away so that’s left me with a household full of stuff, plus my boys are older now and I need to downsize so this was the perfect opportunity. So Gary, Richie and I run the store and it’s been good. Basically Richie does all of the mechanics, Gary owns the plaza, and I do everything else [laughs]. It’s a good partnership.

So that must be how you got involved with this store? Starting out with Gary and Richard?

Well I’ve known Gary and Richie for the last 6 years, so when they decided to do this they needed someone to do the bookkeeping and the general running of the store. It was a perfect fit. And then the vendors that we got on board, which you know, it’s worked out because they’re all very nice people and for the most part it has been very collaborative.

What type of items do you typically sell in your booth? How do you find them?

I try to keep it 60% antiques and 40% contemporary items, or new items that somebody might find useful. Most of my items come from my parents stock, although in my 25 years of marriage I’ve collected stuff myself, so I don’t go out and buy to sell because I have so much. It’s just overwhelming how much I already have.

So you just kind of pull from your own stock.

Yes, exactly.

That’s smart, that’s a good way to declutter.

Yeah, but then you’re given stuff from friends or family. Or, I’m a Real Estate agent for my full time job, so sometimes I try to help a client out, you know, sure I’ll sell some stuff for you. I tend not to do that but it depends, if my client really needs a hand then I’ll do it as a client favor.

Have you ever sold anything that was a rare find?

Yes, over the summer I had these antique doors from an estate in Darien, and they were not quite 5 feet tall. We couldn’t figure out, it had either come from their wine cellar or their stable, they were very fancy and it was quite unusual. They were a set of doors with the original hardware and everything, and I think I priced them at $300.

Do you see social media as an effective way to promote your business? If so, which one works best for you?

I utilize Facebook the most, for this, Facebook and our website are the most effective for social media. For myself, for Real Estate, I use my own personal website, as well. We haven’t done a lot of print advertising just because of the cost, we’re a startup and it is expensive. We’ve been really pushing the social media aspect, you know, the local sites also, like the Enfield forum.

So do you typically stick to social media or are there other types of promotion that you do?

Well you were here for Small Business Saturday, and I’m sure they told you about our grand opening that we had in September. So we try to do in-store promotions, with the raffles and having events. We don’t do discounts like 25% off or things like that, because that kind of degrades the stock, and because we have so many vendors you can just do an offering that way. That’s why we try to focus on the raffles and That’s why we try to focus on the raffles and events, to get people in.