A hobby and passion become a business for one local woman
Photographer. Writer. Modern day treasure hunter.
Those are the words that describe Lynchburg local and vintage enthusiast Kelly Whitmore. But unlike some treasure hunters, Whitmore is more than happy to share her finds with the world.
As she watched her house fill with vintage finds over the years, Whitmore opened her Etsy shop and business, Golden Eclectic, where she sells curated goods that she finds at estate sales and thrift and antique stores.
“That’s why I went with the name,” Whitmore explained. “Not only does it represent the ‘golden era,’ but eclectics are more than just one type of item. It’s a hodgepodge of things.”
Whitmore started her business back in summer 2021 and sold her first piece on eBay.
“It was a [vintage] La Choy bottle in this beautiful emerald green,” Whitmore said. “I even had the original stopper with it, which was extremely rare, and I sold it to a collector who was looking for one in that exact color. I was so nervous shipping it because it was my first sale.”
Luckily the glass made it safe and sound—with the collector even commenting on her great packing ability.
But looking for vintage items is more than going from store to store. According to Whitmore, it also includes hours of research.
“The amount of time you spend looking up a certain piece depends on what it is,” she said. “If it’s something more common, it won’t take me long to look something up online. But sometimes with a certain piece, there won’t be anything on it.”
To Whitmore, it’s a learning process. Over the last few years, her sales have connected her to experts and collectors that have knowledge she can glean from.
“I’m definitely not an expert,” she joked. “When I see something that I love, I usually buy it on the spot and do the research later. But I’ve always loved history, so I love trying to find information on something.”
Whitmore says she’s drawn to glass objects, especially swung vases.
“When it comes to my favorite era, I’m torn between the art deco era and mid-century,” she said. “Really I just love a piece that I think is beautiful.”
And sometimes, those beautiful pieces happen to be worth something. At an estate sale in Roanoke, Whitmore fell in love with a $6 cubed fractal.
“The estate sale was actually for the man who was Debbie Reynolds’ ex-husband,” she said. “He had lived in Vegas and had all these interesting pieces he had collected over the years. I went home and found out the fractal was worth [hundreds of dollars]. And I only paid $6 for it.”
But for Whitmore, the true value of an item is the story it tells.
“When you go to an estate sale, you see what people have collected over the years and spent their time building a collection,” she said. “It can be sad sometimes, but in a way their legacy gets to live on.”
What she loves most about thrifting is not only finding unique items, but also that it helps encourage sustainability.
“I love that Gen Z is bringing thrifting back to the forefront,” Whitmore said. “We have mass produced as a society…but [thrifting] can be a great resource where you can find a great piece, but don’t have to add more to our environment.”
If you’re getting inspired to hit the local Goodwill, Whitmore offered some tips for those looking to start thrifting.
“Start with what you love,” she said. “Research the era you want to focus on. See what certain companies made and it can help start a pathway to finding great things. Support your local antique stores. Sometimes things may seem expensive because they’re being sold at market value, but you can still find some amazing, affordable pieces.”
As she continues to grow Golden Eclectic, Whitmore plans on posting to her Esty and social media accounts as well as hitting local markets. But her eventual goal is to focus on thrifting as a full-time gig.
“As an artist, I love this as a creative outlet,” Whitmore said. “I’m single with two dogs so I have the space to fill my house with all kinds of antiques. I would love to spend my time traveling around the country and filling up an RV going to estate sales.”
Whitmore also encourages others to explore their passion and creative endeavors because you never know where it might lead.
“Imposter syndrome is very real,” she said. “Admit you’re not an expert but give yourself grace [when starting something]. You’ll never be as great as you want to be, but you will be greater than you think.”
You can find Golden Eclectic on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/GoldenEclecticCo or on Instagram @goldeneclectic.