You walk into J-Bird Vintage and immediately you’re floored by the array of colors and shapes. Decorated mannequins, flowery clothing, obscure jewelry fills the walls, shelves, and counters of the little Vine neighborhood shop. There’s a homey and down-to-earth feeling that you just don’t get from a chain retailer.
Often times, the owner is readily there to answer any of your questions about the products they offer, you can’t get that from a large corporation. Many small businesses offer a variety of unique items that cannot be found anywhere else.
Jane Gulliver is the owner of J-Bird Vintage, a local clothing boutique. Gulliver grew up a part of this community in the Westnedge Hill neighborhood. Now, she wants to do her part to give back. With the opening of her one of a kind business nearly two years ago, she’s combined her love of vintage items with her desire to help the community and be a part of the Vine neighborhood.
“My goal is to have a successful vintage store where people know they can get quality vintage items for an affordable price and also to contribute to the Vine neighborhood and it’s growth,” said Gulliver.
Her store offers a unique selection of various vintage items including quality clothing and jewelry. Customers walk into J-Bird Vintage and are met with a plethora of colors and patterns that fill the store and intrigue Gulliver’s customers. Her customer base is a diverse group that includes high school and college students, and adults of all ages.
“I think the fact that it is local and I know the owner personally, and also that I know where the money is going. That contributes to why I go there, in addition to my love of vintage clothing,” said Loy Norrix junior Madison Preussel.
Even more impressive, Gulliver is completing this feat with little to no marketing. Her customers find her business through word of mouth, her various Art Hop fashion shows and other little spotlight events. She utilizes the opportunities that she gets to the fullest and is expertly growing her business. She put a dream of hers into action, taking something that she loves and turning it into a profitable business.
Owning a small business can be very difficult. Chains and bigger businesses take a large amount of business from local shops and stores. Kalamazoo has a great mix and balance of small business and big chains that provides its’ citizens with an even choice of where to spend their money.
“It’s a small town business, that’s something I love, and I love vintage items, they sell things that aren’t available anywhere else,” said Loy Norrix senior Emma Whitehead.
Small businesses are very important to the communities and families that surround them. In bigger cities like say Chicago or New York City, a small business would find it harder to thrive, considering they would be surrounded by big businesses and corporations. Each community has its own identity and receptivity of small businesses. Some cities are all for big businesses and corporations and offer little support for small businesses.
Fortunately for Gulliver, the Kalamazoo community is very open to the growth and nurturing of small businesses like J-Bird Vintage. For example, the community takes part in Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday that serves as a day that stimulates the growth of local businesses.
“I think that we are very lucky in Kalamazoo to have the support of the community, there are a lot of businesses in the community who work together to support each other. I find it to be very positive,” said Gulliver.
There are a lot of challenges that come with owning a small business, and with all of those experiences, come many joys for Gulliver. She is a fan of the people, who are utterly absorbed in her business and it’s potential.
“[The hardest part is] that you are always thinking about your business, you always want to improve and do more so it’s hard to take a break. It has a way of taking over your life, which isn’t all bad,” said Gulliver, “My favorite part of having a store here is the people who come in. I think that I have the best customers around, hearing the things they do and say is just inspiring.”
Jane Gulliver is an inspiration to all those who have a passion for an idea that needs to be expressed. Gulliver’s actions show others that they really can do what they love and make money doing it. Gulliver used her love of vintage items to create a business. Now, Gulliver spends her life surrounded by the things she loves so much, serving people who love these products as well.
For all those who are aspiring to run their own business, Gulliver has some advice:
“I’d say to take it slowly, do a business plan, look at your market closely. It’s not just about what you love, it’s about what’s going to work,” said Gulliver.