The Black Swan Bazaar is a feeling as much as it is a bricks and mortar shop. Everything from the staging of merchandise to the music is a part of that feeling. It’s like stepping back in time in that the music is usually 40s or swing music and the merchandise can be anything from vintage kitchen utensils, to a retro hi fidelity record player; or fine art to jewelry, we have it all. We feature a healthy dose of local artists combined with an unbelievable inventory of consignment merchandise. Our consigners/pickers know what items are a fit for our shop and they do a great job of finding unique and unusually cool items for us to sell. Once an item hits the shop, it is then a matter of how to best merchandise or present it, and that can in itself is an art. Yvonne is constantly arranging and rearranging the inventory, so that it is never the same two days in a row. That in itself gives our customers a reason to drop in frequently. It also makes browsing a treat because if you walk past a display two times, you will spot things the second time that you did not see the first time. One customer said “it’s like peeling an onion, you have to do it one layer at a time.”
We are often asked if we are an antique shop, and our response is that we have antiques, but we don’t limit ourselves to antiques. An item can be relatively new and still be a cool piece that will have an impact on the décor of your space. We have had everything from a turn of the century Hammond portable typewriter to a glass knife. Our artists range from a lady who hand paints china to one who makes handmade greeting cards and everything in between. We are fortunate to have two fantastic jewelry designers associated with our shop, so we also have one of a kind jewelry creations that are actually affordable. The shop is also where we sell most of our painted furniture, so there will always be a few of those pieces scattered around.
Years ago, when we lived in Plant City, my wife Yvonne and I would drive over to Lakeland and spend the day in the antique shops that used to make up a good part of downtown at that time. We would visit shops, have a bite to eat, and talk about how great it would be to own a shop in such a great downtown area. Little did we know that a job loss would thrust us into that exact situation 12 years later.
We have always wanted to own our own shop, but had not planned on doing it as soon as we did. Fate had a hand in the timing. The company I worked for eliminated my position so I was unemployed and the prospects for finding a job were not good at that time (2010). After a long and fruitless job search, we decided to open a consignment shop in the summer of 2010. Our first location was on Macdonald Street in our neighborhood, and while we enjoyed being a neighborhood shop, we had little or no foot or walk in traffic, so when the opportunity came to move downtown, we jumped on it and the rest, as they say, is history.
At first we were apprehensive about whether the downtown location would work for us since we were just a little consignment shop, but we needn’t have worried. Both our new neighbors and our customers (both old and new) welcomed us with open arms and our shop changed and grew into what we have today.
We will be adding a whole new dimension to our business in the next couple of months, as the city has just approved our application for a beer & wine license. Our vision is to provide a unique shopping experience where you can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine while you are shopping. We are working on building in a couple of small seating areas where customers can sit with friends or just hang out. If you like the chair you are sitting in, you can take it home, as they will all be for sale.
Four times per year, we host an Artisan Market in conjunction with First Friday (a monthly event held in downtown Lakeland on the first Friday of the month from 6:00PM – 9:00PM where the streets are closed and shops stay open late). This is an excellent opportunity for the artists whose work we sell to showcase their work to the public in a festival or show setting. Since the Markets are held in the evening, the tents are lit up with decorative lights to create a festive atmosphere that is really enjoyed by both the artists and the public that is visiting the market. This also gives us the opportunity to help local artists sell their creations in a great venue that costs the artist very little in the way of a financial outlay but provides a great opportunity for the artist to have his or her work seen by a lot of people in a very short period of time.
We try to provide people who visit our shop with an atmosphere that ‘feels like a hug’ as Yvonne would put it. I think we have done just that, but what you think is much more important to us, so come in, browse around, and let us know if you agree.