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How A Business Gets Through the First Year

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Friends Audra Yomans and Chris Hunt of Seek Vintage talk about launching a business in a poor economic climate.

Opening up a new store in an economic climate like this may not always seem like the best idea, but sometimes it all just works out.

Seek Vintage is one of those stores..

The small vintage shop located near Chicago Avenue and Ashland was founded a little more than  a year ago by friends Audra Yomans, 35 and Chris Hunt, 34. The pair realized that they both had such a passion for thrifting and vintage shopping themselves, and decided that they wanted to share it with others.

"We love to look for hidden treasures, and we wanted to bring it to other people," Hunt said.

Six months after the initial idea came about, Seek Vintage opened their doors, on April 17th, 2010. The pair said that it took them about two months to get everything together before they signed a lease.  The store was ready to enter the Chicago vintage scene after about four months of redecorating and preparation.

The pair did most of the renovations in the space themselves, painting the walls, putting up pictures and setting up fixtures. During the renovation period is when they also started branding the store, something that they say was extremely important for them.

"Get a logo, and get it recognized," advises Hunt. "Other businesses didn't get that."

Hunt credits their branding as one of the things that sets them apart from other vintage and thrift shops in the city.

The two admit that running a small business isn't always the easiest, especially when it is just the two of them.

"It's a lot of long hours," Yomans says. "We're always working."

"Even on our days off," Hunt adds.

The pair is always looking for something new (well, old, since everything in their store is secondhand) to add to their collection.

They put a lot of care into what goes on sale at Seek.

"If there's ever a stain or a rip, we fix it before it goes out," Hunt said. "We wouldn't put anything out if we wouldn't buy it ourselves."

Hunt recognizes that in the past year since the store has been open, the pair has learned quite a bit.

"Don't cut corners," Hunt explains.

"I've also learned to better interact with people," Hunt continues. "I'm able to read people better now. It's important to interact like that with your customers, otherwise they walk in and walk out."

Hunt also said that Yomans has grown quite a bit when it comes to merchandising, and that she's become more artistic in a retail way, again something that helps keep customers.

While the pair may be doing what they love, that doesn't mean it's always easy. But when it does get difficult, Yomans seems to have a perfect fall back.

"Well, it's all over in 2012 anyway," she said.

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