26th February 2021
‘A long time ago, on the small island known as Manhattan, there was a man who was attracted to shiny and bright, gold and silver threads…’
Thus, begins the story of a truly amazing store in the USA which caught our eye. In many ways it embodies the philosophy we’ve discussed in recent weeks about falling back in love with your stash. Tinsel Trading has been collecting and selling antique, historic and merely old metal threads, appliqués, ribbons, sequins and anything else shiny and wonderful for well over 80 years.
And it began because the founder fell in love with things he already had.
Arch J. Bergoffen bought The French Tinsel Company in 1933 after having worked there for a number of years. The original company had imported metal threads from France (commonly known as ‘tinsel’ at the time). By the time WWII began, Mr. B, as he was affectionately known, had collected and stockpiled thousands of spools of metal thread which he could now supply to the government for uniforms.
Despite the demand, it barely made a dent in Mr. B’s extensive collection. Once the war ended, it became necessary for him to expand his offering to include various embellishments, trims and ribbons, all in sparkling metallic and an array of different colours.
However, it soon became clear that not everyone was interested in metal trims, so Mr. B needed to expand his retail business. Rather than insisting on newly manufactured products, his love for antiques led him to seek out and accrue threads, trims and accessories of all kinds, as long as they had been manufactured before 1960. It turned out that he barely needed to leave home.
Stock simply came to him as people learned that he would take in their unwanted stash, buying almost anything as long as it was old.
When Arch J. Bergoffen died in 1989, his granddaughter, Marcia, who had been working in the store since she was a child, carried his passion on.
One of her first tasks was to sort out the enormous amount of stock that was stored in every nook and cranny of their New York warehouse, filling the basement, spilling into aisles and almost reaching the ceiling. It took years to inventory everything but the result was a treasure trove, probably unmatched anywhere in the world.
Increasing rents and a need for space as the business grew led to a move across the country to Berkley, California. Tinsel Trading also embraced technology (‘kicking and screaming’ as Marcia admits) and eventually their unrivalled range of products became available to buy online, allowing people from all over the world to discover the perfect thread or trim, or a hidden gem they might never have discovered anywhere else.
(source) L-Gold Scalloped Trim | R- Gold Bullion Peacocks
You can spend hours looking through the catalogue on the Tinsel Trading website, and one can only imagine what other delights must be available in the actual store. But retail aside, what we loved so much about this story was how the owners of this business, past and present, valued items which they already had, and which were already in existence.
It is so easy to be dazzled by something fresh and brand new, but in doing so one might miss how stunning the old and antique can be.
If we haven’t already encouraged you to go back to your stash, then maybe this wonderful story will help.
While you open up the boxes you haven’t looked at for years, or wind an old, unravelled thread back onto its bobbin, just imagine the sheer delight that Marcia must have experienced as she rediscovered some of the untouched treasures her grandfather had preserved so many years before.
It isn’t just about a new thread or button for your latest project. It is the holding of history, complete with the individual stories, in the palm of your hand.