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While supply chain problems have created a backlog for new furniture, sales of vintage home furnishings, easily available online, has exploded. Correspondent Serena Altschul reports on what experts call the "circular economy," and how the internet is changing the nature of "vintage" in the 21st century.
JANE PAULEY: Shop til you drop is the order of the day at the down home sales event Serena Altschul has been checking out.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: It's 7:30 AM on a bright spring Saturday in Ozawkie, Kansas, population 600, give or take a cat quilt or two. It's the day of the town-wide garage sale.
- How much are the bar stools?
SERENA ALTSCHUL: And friends, Chris [INAUDIBLE]
- 50 bucks.
- This is so cool.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: --and Elizabeth Daniel are on the hunt.
- This is teamwork.
- This is teamwork.
- I can feel what's going on.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Because when it comes to garage sales--
- I want those chairs.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: --the early bird gets the worm.
- It's the hunt for the treasure, you know? You might find the next big Andy Warhol covered over with another painting or something.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Do you still have that feeling when you go?
- Yes, yes, every day.
- Oh, I want that.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: [INAUDIBLE] and Daniel might be having fun, but this is strictly business. They're stocking their vintage home furnishing stores.
- Thank you.
- You're welcome.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: During the pandemic, sales have been brisk, an example of what economists call a booming circular economy.
- Thank you.
- Thank you very much.
- Our business has tripled since everybody had to start staying home.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Home is actually where artist Elizabeth Daniel's business began, specifically the driveway of her house in the one stoplight town of Tonganoxie, Kansas.
- The problem people have a lot of times with going to thrift stores to shop for their decor is that they can't see it in their home because they just think of it as like old stuff. So I want it to look like a room rather than just one individual piece. Oh my gosh.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Every week, Daniel reimagines the yard sale, drawing from her garage boutique to create a glamorous tableau of vintage finds, which she then sells through her Facebook group, Elizabeth Daniel Decor. While Daniel's business is just three years old--
- Those are Santa Fe Railroad chairs.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: [INAUDIBLE] is 30. Is it sometimes hard to part with pieces?
- Oh, yes.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Even though her glamorous store in downtown Topeka is full of pieces that nod to local history--
- I can enjoy it for a little while and then let it go.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: --most of [INAUDIBLE] finds are carefully photographed and then sold online around the world.
- One of the things that really made the vintage market spike is that it was available. New furniture has to be produced. And so vintage furniture is already there. And it can just be loaded up and shipped out.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: During the pandemic, buying a new piece of furniture has sometimes meant wait times of months.
ANNA BROCKWAY: Our sales have been up anywhere from 85% to 125%.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Eight years ago, Anna Brockway cofounded Cherish, a web marketplace for all things vintage.
ANNA BROCKWAY: The idea behind the circular economy is, instead of throwing things away, let's find them a new home and a new life and repurpose them.
- What attracted me to this is the color. I love this terracotta color right now.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Over in Osaki, Elizabeth Daniel is surveying her haul.
- And it looks like it's oil paint because of how thick it is.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: Though in this circular economy, you could say Daniel is just getting started. So how do you know when you're done? Because I get the sense you could go all day, all night.
- I'm never done. I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning and be ready to go again.
- (SINGING) Everything's $1.95. If you stay long enough, you'll find something you like at the garage sale.