How to Start an Antique Store

Your antique store may sell items online, in a booth at an antique mall, at craft fairs or flea markets, or in your own stand alone store front--or in a combination of all of those places. You will constantly procure new items for your store and work to resell quickly and at a profit. Most antique dealers specialize in a specific segment of antiques such as furniture, vintage jewelry, printed media, or even commercial signs.

Learn how to start your own Antique Store and whether it is the right fit for you.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.

Start an antique store by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Antique Store
  2. Form your Antique Store into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Antique Store for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Antique Store
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Antique Store
  7. Get Antique Store Insurance
  8. Define your Antique Store Brand
  9. Create your Antique Store Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your antique store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Antique Store Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your antique store?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening an antique store?

If you are looking at becoming a dealer on a part-time basis and enjoy trading relatively inexpensive items, this can be a low-cost business to start. You will need at the very least an online store through ebay or Etsy, some starting inventory, and an ability to receive payments. You could operate this as a weekend endeavor using only a few thousand dollars for your initial investment. Should you consider opening a large antique storefront in an old mill or warehouse, you could spend up to $500,000 buying or leasing the property, installing display areas, and purchasing enough inventory to open your doors.

What are the ongoing expenses for an antique store?

You are always buying and selling, so you should have a good line of credit able to withstand a spending spree. You will need reliable transportation and possibly need to maintain an online store. Your display space or store comes with some maintenance costs.

Who is the target market?

Your most valued customer is the individual or designer who appreciates your eye for unique and quality items such that they return to your store for another piece to work into their home. Customers who regularly purchase from antique stores value quality construction and elegance over a fancy showroom with over solicitous sales staff. They desire to strike a bargain and feel that they own a piece of history that nobody else can have.

How does an antique store make money?

As the owner/operator you will constantly be shopping for new items for your booth or online store and will turn a profit by re-selling them at a higher price. You are more successful if you turn your inventory quickly and often. Large expensive items can linger, slowing your income stream and leaving the impression with shoppers that you never have anything new.

How much can you charge customers?

It all depends on your products. You might sell vintage Hot Wheels for $2 each or a massive mirror designed for a courthouse for $5,000. Market trends will always determine your pricing structure.

How much profit can an antique store make?

A standard profit margin for many dealers is about 30%, but keep in mind that you will be taking out listing fees, consignment fees, and other expenses. A successful antiques business owner can see an income of between $45,000 and $60,000 a year. It is not a means to become a millionaire.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Be willing to get rid of merchandise that is sitting on your shelves. If you paid for it and it just collects dust, it is not providing you any kind of income. Always keep in mind you are not the collector, your customer is!

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your antique store is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an antique store business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Certificate of Occupancy

An antique store business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an antique store business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your antique store business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Antique Store needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Antique Store.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market an antique store

Choose your location wisely. Renting a cheap booth at a mall with no foot traffic will net zero sales. Learn the value of creating descriptions for your online shops using popular search words to raise your visibility. Become a regular at flea markets or craft fairs where you will build a devoted fan base.

How to keep customers coming back

Your customers will buy and return to your shop when you have what they desire. Follow trends in the antique business and pop culture to create displays that appeal to current shoppers. Always price reasonably and be willing to bargain.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

Is this Business Right For You?

If you have a passion for a beautifully crafted table or marvel at the function of an old butter churn, you have the first requirement of a successful antiques dealer. You must also have a burning desire to turn a profit and be able to let go of your carefully selected inventory quickly and without any sense of loss. This is above all else a means to make money.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

What happens during a typical day at an antique store?

Whether you operate a large antiques store or maintain a small booth in a mall, on a daily basis you will:

  • Shop for new pieces at other antique stores, visit flea markets, estate sales, and second-hand stores
  • Build an extensive knowledge of your specialty area such as toys, art, fine furniture, and curiosities
  • Market your wares according to what is popular and desirable as trends change
  • Price your product such that it moves quickly while turning a profit over your purchase price
  • Develop your displays to attract shoppers
  • Maintain ledgers/spreadsheets to track incoming and outgoing items
  • Mark down inventory that has lingered on your shelves for too long
  • Bargain with interested customers in order to make the sale
  • Barter with other dealers to ensure you always have fresh inventory for returning shoppers

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful antique store?

An antique store is run by an individual with a unique set of skills including:

  • Encyclopedic knowledge of your specialty area including known manufacturers, dates of production, and what constitutes a rare and valuable piece
  • Has a finger on the pulse of popular items in the antiques market and adjusts inventory accordingly
  • Able to create stunning and attractive displays that highlight your most profitable items
  • Basic accounting skills
  • Friendly and approachable demeanor, ability to chat with all your customers
  • Places minimal sentimental value on inventory, yet appreciates the beauty of each item
  • Innate ability to create lasting relationships with other dealers to obtain the lowest price for new product
  • Willing to utilize the internet to extend reach and increase sales
  • Know how to pack and ship valuables to ensure they reach their new home in one piece

What is the growth potential for an antique store?

The antique boutique capable of expanding will be run by a person who has a talent for building relationships in the business. As you accumulate the names, numbers, and preferences of your clients and competitors, you can start buying items with certain customers in mind. When you become a personal shopper, you can charge a premium for your items and service. Over time, you may expand into a larger storefront as you begin to hire other dealers ready to further expand your customer base. When clients begin to call you looking for a specific item, you are on the road to expanding your business.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an antique store?

Know your stuff! You will enjoy long-term success when you are able to identify a knock-off collectible from the real deal, protecting your customers from massive disappointment and even financial loss. Focus on one or two types of items you particularly enjoy as it builds a brand for you--your booth will become known as the Teddy Bear booth or the one with the really nice furniture. Always be willing to bargain and sell fast at a lower profit rather than holding out for the big sale.

How and when to build a team

You may wish to have a partner who can help move large and heavy items, but in general your antique boutique will probably be a one-person show. If you operate a mall, you may need to hire additional clerks and staff to maintain your business hours during busy seasons.

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