A growing demand for grandma's doilies, old velvet sofas with claw feet and floral tea sets to accessorize a social event or photo shoot are leading Fresno treasure hunters into the vintage rental business.
Two new companies specializing in vintage furniture and accessory rentals opened for business this summer while other shops, including a Clovis floral store, have expanded their inventory to carry old stuff, too.
The vintage trend "started a year ago really slowly and it's definitely gained popularity this year," said Amy DeGraw, owner of Brown Bunny Flowers in Clovis.
Why? What's old has become new again and the idea of repurposing old items into new uses is catching on nationwide, Fresno event planning experts say.
"I think the real draw a year ago was the economy," DeGraw said. "A lot of brides were looking for a way to create a beautiful wedding on a tighter budget so it was a natural thing for them to be using their own vases and using Mason jars."
They don't need to "have a glitzy glam wedding to still make it look beautiful," she said.
DeGraw started adding vintage end tables, chairs, couches and wooden doors to her inventory this year as clients planned more rustic and vintage-themed outdoor weddings, she said.
"It's been a really fun trend," said DeGraw who has been in business for seven years. "Things don't have to match. A lot of times families are providing their own heirlooms and supplementing with my things."
The owners of Oh What Joy started their business in August with items they inherited from family and others they picked up at thrift stores and flea markets.
Their collection includes furniture, lanterns, trunks and suitcases, old Pepsi crates and church pews.
"We really just found a need for unique rentals in town, something more than your normal tables and chairs," said co-owner Kimberly Bimat of Clovis whose day job is the venue coordinator at Peoples Church in Fresno.
Business partner Johannah White of Caruthers, the office manager for her family farm, adds that buying some of these items "can be a huge expense for a one-time use."
White said the business will help party planners take the frustration out of searching for hard-to-find items, something she experienced first-hand when looking for 10 wine barrels for her 2012 wedding.
"It wasn't as easy as I would have hoped for," White said.
When she finally did find the barrels to use as cocktail tables, it was disappointing. Some were in bad condition and mismatched in color. But don't worry, White and Bimat have matching Napa Valley wine barrels for rent.
The friends, who met at Peoples Church, have styled and provided items for weddings, photographers and community organizations.
Kathleen Gray started Firefly Vintage Rentals this summer after getting a number of requests from friends and their daughters to borrow her cake plates and other decorations.
"That kind of thing is fine, but I figured, well gosh, if everybody is asking me then there's probably a need for that," Gray said.
She started out inheriting dishware and other items from her mother or saving things from her childhood, like a vintage typewriter. Then she turned to scouring flea markets and connecting with people in the community who would call her up when they ran across old items such as a keybox at the old Virginia Hotel in downtown Fresno.
Her extensive collection includes some furniture, lanterns for weddings, bird cages to hold cards, a red tandem bicycle and old suitcases. Gray also has milk glass, colored glass bottles, amber glassware, a variety of tins, scales and more.
What are people most interested in? It varies, Gray said. Brides want card holders and those who have outside weddings want furniture for lounge areas. The tandem bike and suitcases have been popular for photo shoots.
Fresno photographer Ia Vang of Capturing Life IV Photography said she recently had a bride rent a U-haul truck full of vintage furniture for her Lake Tahoe wedding photo shoot.
Vang also has shot engagement pictures of a couple on a Victorian couch and pictures of families with bird cages and old suitcases that she picked up at estate and yard sales.
A few years ago, no one knew what vintage was, Vang said. "I think within the last one or two years, it's just gotten out of control."
When Tracy Barnes, co-owner of the Premier Bride Wedding Center, magazine and bridal show, started the Fresno bridal show in 2005, wedding decor was just starting to take off with the introduction of chair covers, bows and linens. Vintage wasn't on the radar.
Now that's changing with do-it-yourself blogs, YouTube videos and reality television shows that take viewers on digging adventures through old barns.
There definitely are a lot more companies into vintage rentals — even next year's spring wedding dresses have a vintage feel, Barnes said.
"I think people say 'hey wait — I have that stuff,' " said Barnes, "and my grandma has crazy doors I can make into a backdrop."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, email@example.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.