Secondhand News: Local vintage collector turns side hustle into full-time dream job

Local “e-tailer” Lost + Found Handworks features a selection of secondhand ceramics and glassware curated by owner Kate Geyer. Photo courtesy of Lost + Found Handworks.

By LAUREN FLYNN KELLY — Holiday shoppers in and around Hyattsville are fortunate to have so many local retailers — many of which have been featured in this column — enabling us to reduce our carbon footprint. But one new option worth considering is the locally based “e-tailer,” Lost + Found Handworks, which features a selection of secondhand ceramics and glassware that is lovingly curated by owner Kate Geyer.

There are many things to love about Geyer’s business model, but let’s start with her backstory. Raised in a family of collectors and creative types, the Germantown native said she learned early on to appreciate the history of timeworn treasures. Around the winter holidays, she and her family would make annual pilgrimages to New Orleans to visit extended family, including “Uncle Jim,” a locksmith whose hobby was “collecting all things old — in particular, old locks and banks he could tinker with.” She told me he was one of the first people who taught her the art of digging through dirty boxes at flea markets and negotiating without fear.

After a couple years of working a “pretty significant day job in public policy,” and doing secondhand selling and design work as a side hustle — all while raising a tiny human — Geyer made the leap in June 2019 to full-time vintage seller. Working out of a well-appointed “stock room” in her University Park home, she now spends her days acquiring, cataloguing, researching, photographing and listing pieces that she hopes will bring joy to others’ homes — a dream job that she created for herself.

The floor-to-ceiling cabinets in her workspace are stocked mostly with handmade items from American manufacturers that are no longer in business, or whose vintage items are experiencing a second life in the collecting world. Think midcentury Pyrex containers (with their lids!), kitschy fruit-shaped serving dishes from California pottery house Belmar, the precious prints on Hazel Atlas glassware or (Geyer’s personal favorite) vintage milk glass from West Virginia manufacturer Fenton.

Lost + Found Handiworks is full of one-of-a-kind finds. Photo courtesy of Lost + Found Handworks. 

Geyer said she spends much of her time researching the pieces she resells and telling the story of their value in her descriptions. “I’m a little romantic about it, I guess,” she said. “I love regionally based maker traditions … from Staffordshire to Zanesville to Murano to Jalisco! The more I learn, the more places I discover, and the more varied my stock becomes. That’s so much of the pleasure I get from curating from the past — it’s like I’m traveling the world, and also time, without leaving Hyattsville.” If you scroll through her Instagram (@lostandfoundhandworks), you’ll see how lovingly she photographs her inventory, often setting up dishes in unexpected combinations with the flourish of a tiny plant or gem.

Instagram is just one way Geyer showcases her wares. You can direct message her there to reserve an item, or you can purchase directly through her Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/LostandFoundHandwrks. To save on shipping costs, you can pick up the items from her directly, although it is worth nothing that all Lost + Found shipping materials are eco-friendly, right down to the packing tape.

Geyer also hosts the occasional “home blitz” — when she allows family, friends and neighbors to peruse the stock room — and pop-up shops, including one scheduled for December 14 at Riverdale Park’s Banana Blossom Bistro, which she also helped design.

Starting a small business has been “instructional,” she said, and she’s learned you can’t thrift a collection of anything in a day. Geyer spends hours at auctions, estate sales, yard sales, etc., finding unique items that work well together so that weekend thrifters (like me) don’t have to. “People like the curated experience of vintage, and that’s fine. That’s still sustainable. It’s small business, and it’s a feel-good experience,” she said.

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