The original Keane print of a big-eyed girl holding a bouquet of flowers is titled “Waiting for Grandmother,” which, as it turns out, is an apt theme for Tracy and Scott Avenell’s downtown store. Everything at m.a.r.k. vintage (1021 R St.) seems to be awaiting Grandma’s return. The turquoise ceramic ashtrays, the signs-of-the-zodiac coffee mugs, the Bakelite bangles. Everything, seemingly, just as your Grandma left them.
“People come in here and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness. This reminds me of growing up,’” says Tracy, 38, strolling about displays of carefully curated furniture, home decor, clothes and jewelry from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. (m.a.r.k. stands for midcentury, atomic, retro, kitsch.) “They take a walk back through time.”
Is it all about “Mad Men”?
In fact, the couple has never seen the show. “I used to wear vintage in high school, and kids were like, ‘You’re such a weirdo,’” says Tracy, a San Diego native who moved to Sacramento’s Greenhaven neighborhood when she was 12. “Now everybody wants to wear vintage.” Scott, 40, remembers those days: He also grew up in the Pocket and attended John F. Kennedy High School with Tracy.
From pickers to retailers
As a couple, the Avenells spent years “picking” at estate sales up and down the California coast, a hobby supported by Tracy’s full-time job as a cardiac surgery nurse for UC Davis and Scott’s work as a local coffee roaster. Over time, they developed a flair for buying and selling pieces attractive to a wide audience of aging baby boomers, Gen X midcentury contemporary fans and thrift-loving millennials. After they filled both their garage and a storage unit, they opened the store. “When we couldn’t park our cars, we knew we had to do something,” says Scott.
But is it art?
“We don’t claim to be experts,” says Tracy. “We try to make everything affordable, keep it at a price that can be appreciated by people and not just collectors.”
What about that macrame owl wall hanging?
“If we would have it in our house—that’s our standard for the store,” says Scott. “But,” Tracy adds, “it also has to be something with a fun level.”