‘A fun collection of vintage, eclectic and whimsical stuff’
When Rhonda O’Dell had the chance to open another San Luis Obispo County antiques business, she didn’t let the grinding halt of the pandemic stop her. “I’m really one of those people who believe in twists of fate,” O’Dell said. “You can talk yourself out of anything. So instead, I thought: I’m just going to do it.”
That leap paid off because now, a year later, O’Dell is the proud owner of three antique businesses: Rhonda’s Relics in the Village of Arroyo Grande; her original Pismo Pickers store in Pismo Beach; and a third antique space, The Barn, now open in Santa Margarita.
A closer look into the 3,300-square-foot antique mall shows a roster of 25 distinctive vendors. Collectively, they offer goods that align with the shop’s slogan: “A fun collection of vintage, eclectic and whimsical treasures for your home and garden.” White walls and high ceilings create an open and inviting backdrop to the vendors’ many styles.
Most of the vendors have three walls each to decorate, creating a transformative experience for shoppers as they meander through, block by block. One area offers book-nook warmth with a tastefully woven mauve and olive rug and worn-wood shelves playing host to handpicked titles in cooking, gardening, and more. Elsewhere, patrons can lose themselves in tea-party shabby chic; vintage knits, petticoats, and lace; and even an assortment of antique etched bottles dug up by hand from six feet underground. O’Dell says she adores the variety.
“It’s special there because, even though it’s my business, everyone treats it like a partnership,” she said. “They all have great ideas to play off one another and work together.”
A former San Luis Obispo advertising sales rep, dabbling in vintage was always O’Dell’s beloved hobby. But moving into the antiques retail market full-time was simply kismet. “My mom always loved vintage and decorated with it,” O’Dell recalled. “I’ve always loved the look of it, too. When you see the cute things people bring into these stores you just can’t hardly say no.”
One reason, she says, is that shoppers crave a story. “Antique stores are different because it’s going to be stuff people have collected on their own; things they’ve done the research on, or know the history of. Which is great because people want to know the background, what it’s been through, what it’s seen.”
Customers also want a connection to their own past, a particular niche that O’Dell says has become more apparent during the pandemic. “A lot of people are looking for comfort nowadays,” she added. “To have something that just reminds them of some comfort they had growing up.”
One such occasion happened recently when a customer fell head-over-heels for an antique cookie jar that looked just like one her grandmother had. “And she just said she had to have it,” O’Dell added cheerfully. A longtime antiquer, she knows that feeling well.
At home, O’Dell’s personal collections wander through the genres of antique French pieces, anything Audrie Hepburn, and everything Christmas. “I bought a 40-foot trailer that didn’t get used for what I originally bought it for, so it eventually became all vintage Christmas inside,” she said with a laugh. “There’s more Santa stuff in there than the North Pole.”
The public can scope out a different set of treasures every month at O’Dell’s outdoor popup flea market behind the store. The event exposes Rhonda’s Relics to new audiences and showcases the shopping center’s large back parking lot. Pairing an indoor vintage mall with a monthly outdoor market, all in the Village of Arroyo Grande, makes for an exciting experience in O’Dell’s antiquing journey.
“It’s really a wonderful space,” she added. “We just want people to have fun.”
Rhonda’s Relics is located at 148 West Branch Street in Arroyo Grande. The shop is open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information visit rhondasrelics.com, or call (805) 270-4045 or follow the shop on Facebook and Instagram.
– Tonya Strickland