Odette MacDonald may have been born in the wrong era, but she’s created a little time capsule that transports her clients back 50, 100 and even 150 years ago. The owner of Odette’s Secret Closet shares her delight in the costume jewelry, clothing and décor of bygone times as a pre-estate sales consultant, vintage stylist and antique broker. Her vintage pop-up shop, which, of course, has no permanent address, opened five years ago. The Round Top antique market atmosphere is her goal as it was for the shops she was previously associated with, Vintage on Main and Vintage Gypsies.
As a pre-estate consultant, MacDonald assists people who want to downsize as well as those whose heirs have little interest in family heirlooms. “They will bring me a box of trinkets or random jewelry. I always tell people there is something in your attic that is a hidden gem. I help people evaluate antiques and make good decisions about them based on value and other factors. I give my clients peace of mind because I make sure every item is well-researched, priced at the going rate and goes to a good home,” she said. “I’m always looking for unique pieces with history. My favorite part is speaking with someone who owns a cherished antique and hearing their story,” about their great-aunt or grandmother who owned the piece.
Some families request that MacDonald keep the sale private while others agree she can include their pieces in Odette’s Secret Closet. Among current treasures are Victorian-era Flow Blue china from a family in Alamo, 1930s Juliana costume jewelry from a home in Zapata and a cameo from a family in Edinburg. Estate sales businesses often ask her help to estimate prices on vintage pieces.
MacDonald arranges pop-up shows in boutiques, antique markets, beauty salons and private homes.
“Boutiques benefit by having me bring in new traffic and marketing the event on a constant basis. Whenever I do my pop-ups, I make them informational and different, almost like a historical exhibition. I explain each piece, such as why broaches were worn in a certain way. I work with the store and don’t compete with them.” Oh Kay’s customers, for example, appreciate high-end jewelry pieces as beautiful, wearable art.
“In business, it’s all about keeping people’s curiosity and attention,” MacDonald said. “For the stores, it’s a marketing tool. They pay me to stir up the fun. The pop-up creates a new atmosphere. I bring wine and treats. I talk about the antiques with love and admiration and curate the show like a mini-museum. It’s a more personal approach to marketing, building relationships. An Instagram picture speaks a thousand words.” She typically posts about the showcased business three times day. The pop-up attracts customers who like to go down memory lane, both consumers and decorators shopping for their clients.
Vintage jewelry is MacDonald’s special niche. She will stay up until 4 a.m. researching to find an exact match. “It’s the high of knowing what it’s worth. Lots of designers did not stamp or sign their jewelry. This is a great business. You run into a lot of treasures.”
MacDonald, who started in the business for her own pleasure and to make money, encourages clients to use the vintage linens and dishes they inherited or purchased and enjoy the ambiance and links to earlier times.
Some customers have stipulated that MacDonald should handle their heirlooms when they pass away. “People know I have their best interest at heart,” she said. “Once they have given me a family heirloom, I won’t sell it until I find the perfect person to sell the item to,” one who is willing to pay a fair price.
At the B&B located at the William Jennings Bryan House in Mission, MacDonald pointed out a late-1800s Murphy bed, which hides inside a shoulder-high cabinet, and other furniture and vintage linens with discreet price tags. “This is the ideal place for me to host a show-and-tell gathering. It will work perfectly for what I plan to do: tea parties, estate sale dinners.” The Bryan House, which has been restored by Ariel King, was the setting for a recent luncheon that MacDonald hosted for interior decorators and estate sale owners.
A creative person is a jack of all trades, MacDonald said. She caters to younger clients
who like to mix modern and vintage and look to her to help stage theme-oriented events. She participates in the Houston Vintage Festival in September as well as art gallery pop-ups there.
In the future, MacDonald plans to become a true vintage gypsy with a van to take her show on the road. “I do what I love while preserving history one story at a time.”
For more information, see Odette’s Secret Closet on Facebook or call 467-9379.
This story by Eileen Mattei appears in the June 2016 edition of Valley Business Report