Calm, cool and collectables

Favorite one for cover if usable

Alissa Thompson celebrates 20 years with family, friends and treasures found at the Southport Antique Mall

When Alissa Thompson begins to feel exhausted, she says she just thinks of the people she gets to see every day, the ideas she’ll hear or the support she will receive from the antique dealers, staff and customers at Southport Antique Mall (SAM). When her parents, Jim and Jane Haganman, started SAM in 1994, Alissa says her dad’s only rule was that they have a good time. Twenty years later, she says she feels lucky to run a retail establishment with such great employees, customers and unique products, still finding happiness inside the store every day.

“There are many dealers and staff that have been here so long, that I feel like I grew up with them,” Alissa says. “I was 18 when I started here. We have really great staff, who is dedicated. They come and they stay. Many people have been here more than 10 years so they feel like family, which sure makes work easy.”

When her parents first opened SAM, Alissa went to college and worked part-time during breaks. She says she explored other career avenues, but always had something to do with the store, knowing this was where her future would lead. Through the years, the shop has expanded to entail more than 36,000 square feet of space, filled by approximately 200 vendors.

“We opened during the heyday of antiquing,” Alissa says. “When we started, the first four or five years it was remarkable the business we saw. Everything has its phases. Sort of the excitement of antiquing wore off, so from then on it’s been kind of difficult to stay relevant in the world. I have a great marketing team. Once we adopted the ideas of reusing, repurposing, recycling, keeping things out of the landfills and reducing your carbon footprint, it’s really helped us to stay afloat and keep people interested.”

When Jim passed away in 2008, Alissa took on a more of a leadership role. In 2013, Jane stepped down and passed the day-to-day operations on to Alissa.

“Our biggest challenge is staying relevant,” Alissa says. “Our biggest challenge is reaching our market. Coming through that economic crisis we had, small businesses were closing. Our biggest challenge was getting through that and getting to the other side. It was not easy but we did it.”

To overcome the challenge of staying relevant and keeping their name out there, Alissa says her marketing team has launched a new logo and advertising campaign. They are getting more involved with social media, which she says has gone well.

“Business is pretty good, it’s pretty consistent,” Alissa says. “What more can you ask for? We’re still trying to reach more, get more out there and get our name out there. That’s never going to stop.”

Alissa says Web sites such as eBay and Pinterest have helped business, opening people’s eyes to the items that are out there, and what they can do with it. Though long before the popularity of Pinterest, Alissa says they had a loyal customer base who spread a positive word-of-mouth recommendations, always shopping with SAM first.

“They have everything; anything you want, they’ve got it,” says Jackie Moster, who has shopped and ran a booth at SAM for 12 years, making a trip from Columbus weekly. “I enjoy everything that’s in the booths. Everyone is so nice. The people are so friendly.”

As Alissa looks at what the future has in store for SAM, she says she is excited to focus more on community involvement. In 2013, for example, they hosted a trick-or-treating night which not only gave the shop some nice exposure, but brought the community together – more than 1,000 people attended.

In recognition of the antique mall’s 20th anniversary, Alissa says they will host special celebrations all year long – from special sales and events to dealer appreciation. For the first time this year, they will participate in the antique weekend at the Indianapolis Home Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Jan. 24, 25 and 26. Additional events will be posted at or on the Facebook page.

“You don’t know where the time’s gone,” Alissa says. “I’ve seen so much happen here – so much growth, loss and good. We’ve really built a community here amongst ourselves, which is very cool and something to be thankful for.”