Douglas Scott ’01E entered the antiques business in a manner as time-tested as the furniture he sells: through family. He took on marketing for his father-in-law’s French furniture shop in Coral Gables, Fla., where he soon noticed a problem: “Most people think of antiques in somewhat of a negative sense,” says Scott: “grandmother’s dusty attic, garage sale furniture.”
Hoping to encourage more people—including younger ones—to become collectors, he branched out from the shop this past January, launching an online venture, TheHighBoy.com, as “an attempt to get people excited and aware of antiques.”
Scott (left) began his business career as a consultant, but when he and his wife, Olga, started a family, he wanted a job that required less traveling. He joined father-in-law Ignacio Granda at Alhambra Antiques, where Scott taught himself the basics of online marketing. “We were one of the first antique shops to have a strong online presence,” he says.
He went on to start an online marketplace for antiques dealers in Miami—an experience that taught him antiques can sell well online when the site has a high volume of pieces, and when those pieces are offered by respected dealers.
Clockwise from top: Delft vases, a Western Union lamp, a poster from Austria, an Italian desk, a 1940s lamp and two very different 20th-century chairs
Dealers who partner with The HighBoy pay a monthly fee and a percentage of each sale. Scott’s team handles shipping, a task many dealers are happy to hand over. Within a month of its launch the site had 50 suppliers, three employees (in addition to Scott and his wife), a crew of freelance contributing writers and an advisory board. In the first six weeks of operations it acquired $10 million worth of inventory and earned $64,000 in gross revenue.
Scott’s goal is to bring “a new perspective to an older industry.” The site has an uncluttered layout and a slightly gritty feel (“less shiny-happy, more rock and roll,” Scott says). It also has a broad view: The site features not only Queen Annes but also, for example, once-again-stylish items from the Mad Men era.
In a world of cheap, mass-produced furniture, Scott emphasizes the value of pieces that have endured. “We love the idea of embracing the past and embracing things that aren’t brand-new,” he says. “These are things with history and background and story. We’re spurring people on to be more creative and live more interesting lives.”
Creative and interesting is an apt description for Scott’s own interior décor, which includes an art deco chandelier, a mid-century Brazilian rosewood dining set and religious art dating back to the Renaissance.
Antiques give people a chance to explore the past, he says: “One reason I went to Amherst was to learn about the world—history, culture, arts, languages. Coming from a small town in Indiana, the world seemed incredibly big and amazingly interesting. I knew nothing of it. I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to be well-rounded. That’s what I wanted from an Amherst education, and that’s what I want to do with The HighBoy.”
Katherine Gustafson ’01 is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor.