Alex Dorney has been fascinated by antiques since he was a kid. His favorite pieces — a set of rain lamps from the ‘70s — sit on display in his living room. From the water that drips down the sides to the waterfall that forms a perimeter, Dorney, owner of VintageGoofball, enjoys the quirkiness of it all.
In 2015, Dorney decided to create a business that reflected his hobby. VintageGoofball, based in Harrisonburg, has been successful in its sales and reached an international consumer audience.
VintageGoofball sells antique items from figurines to retro clothing on Etsy. Dorney, along with his business partner, Paige Fisher, attend auctions, go to flea markets and frequent thrift shops to stock their inventory for their online business.
“I have a good support system of people around town that know me and it’s just, I feel good when I’m doing things,” Dorney said. “I don’t really have a bad day at thrifting.”
Along with his business, Dorney takes pride in turning his personal vehicle into a work of art. Dorney purchased a 1999 conversion van and quickly began decorating its interior and exterior with eclectic items. For Dorney, he’s used his van as a form of advertisement for his business. While he doesn’t conduct any business from the van, he takes pride in its appearance.
“I enjoy being happy when I’m driving it because you can’t really have a bad mood when you’re driving it,” Dorney said. “I like it being a part of us, our business and our whole persona.”
For Dorney, VintageGoofball serves as a way to control his anger and anxiety. Dorney was a student at Old Dominion University for five years, however he was hospitalized twice as a result of bipolar disorder.
He then decided to leave ODU and pursue his own business, because in the past, he had jobs where he felt micromanaged by his supervisors.With his own business, he gets to be in charge. Dorney believes this work setting better suits him because he gets to pick and choose his own hours and pursue his love for collecting vintage items.
“I’ve been doing really good for the last three years we’ve been doing this,” Dorney said. “I mean it’s been the best three years of my life pretty much.”
Since Fisher and Dorney are “flippers” — meaning they purchase items and resell them — they’ve become connected with their audience, which varies from young and old to local and international. According to Fisher, it’s normal to receive updates from their eager buyers.
“Part of the fun of it is when someone messages you saying, ‘Oh my mom and grandma had this exact thing and I’ve been looking for it,’ and then they find it,” Fisher said. “We can give it to them and they’ll get back to us about how excited they are to have it.”
According to Fisher and Dorney, VintageGoofball has a large customer base since its inventory changes rapidly. Certain groups of people enjoy certain types of items. Friend and longtime customer Meghan Oney enjoys purchasing products from VintageGoofball because of their authenticity.
“It’s kind of like treasure hunting,” Oney said. “You find these old things that have value, either sentimental value or monetary value. I like that aspect about it.”
For Dorney, the past three years have been the best of his life. After leaving college because of mental health challenges, he feels he’s finally found a way to make a living while also being himself.
Dorney tends to chuckle when people ask him how he runs a business and creates a piece of art out of a van. But for him, it’s just paint and glue — anyone can create or sell art.
“For real, I mean yeah there’s a little bit of direction, but anyone can do this,” Dorney said. “Some people just can’t believe that someone would do this. Well, I’m crazy.”
Contact Katelyn Waltemyer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.