Miss Pixie’s Furnishings & Whatnot is nestled in the middle of DC’s bustling 14th Street Corridor, and it’s one of the best places in the city for window shopping. But unlike many of the newer businesses in the neighborhood, the store’s windows – filled with swoon-worthy vintage furniture finds – have been beckoning customers in for more than 20 years. And speaking from personal experience, once inside, it’s hard to leave the cozy, trendy time warp.
That’s because owner Pixie Windsor has seen a lot and knows a thing or two about staying relevant – especially when the game is retro. More than just owning a store, Pixie makes a point to prop up the community: she donates time, space and design ideas to local organizations and businesses, and hosts events and DIY workshops in the shop. Even her website offers customers recommendations for other local vintage, repair and upholstery shops.
Windsor shared some insight on how to nab that great statement piece:
Pro tip 1: Play it cool at auction; poker face is key.
Pro tip 2: Pixie goes to auction every Tuesday and Wednesday, so that’s the time to buy. Don’t wait for a Sunday stroll into the shop after brunch, cause if you snooze, you lose – unless of course, you just want to stop in for some chocolate chip cookies.
On Tap: You’ve been operating your shop in DC for more than 20 years, and this month you’re celebrating 10 years in your current location on 14th Street. What kind of changes have you seen?
Pixie Windsor: Fourteenth Street has gotten crazy expensive. My lease is astronomical, and I don’t know if I’ll renew it in four years. But until then, I’m happy to continue to serve old and young, local DCers and transients alike. While [the city] has changed a lot, we’ve stayed very busy. I have a lot of really wonderful regulars. I have a lot of customers that I’ve had since 1997, who still come around from back when the shop was in Adams Morgan. But I’m also lucky that DC is full of ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-transferring in-and-out folks, because I think the word gets out that if you want good furniture for a good price, mine is a great place to get it.
OT: What does it take to have the kind of staying power that you do?
PW: I have to be current and keep changing with the times as far as what’s going on with the furniture world. But I also have to stay in the ballpark in terms of not having things [be] insanely expensive. We have cookies and music and I want everybody to feel like they can plop down on a sofa. It’s nice to fill a little need that’s going on in the neighborhood, and source locally as much as possible. I have a great manager and a really trustworthy staff, and I don’t have to worry when I’m out of town. Back in Adams Morgan, I was even on the delivery trucks. Another thing is that I came onto the scene knowing nothing about social media, and I have someone who does that. I’m very fortunate that way.
Can’t Live Without
Really, really good music
Really comfortable clothes
Time alone to think and clear my head
Physical and mental strength of the people around me
OT: Miss Pixie’s has branched out to hosting events. What have been some of your favorites?
PW: The terrarium building was really popular, and so was the lamp making. We’re probably going to do one every other month. There’s actually a whole spectrum of things that we do. We just like to keep involved. We’ve done art exhibits, [and] we’ve loaned and set up furniture for theaters. I’ve done some design work for DC Brau. We’ve done just about anything. People say, “How are you going to make this work?” and I’m like, “It’ll take us 20 minutes.” If I can do it, especially with local theatre groups, I’m happy to work with them. It’s my way of giving back to the community.
OT: Were you born with an eye for spotting retro fashions and furnishings? When did you realize that this was your passion?
PW: I come from a family that went to auctions for everything, so I love the auction scene. I grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere on the Eastern Shore [of Maryland], and my plan was to become an artist and move to New York. When it took me 10 years to get through four years of college, I thought I should slow down. So I came to DC and just loved the people. One day I was in Adams Morgan and saw [our original space]. I went in there and it was for rent and I said, “This is it.” And the guy there told me how to do the auctions. He said, “Don’t do consignment.”
Miss Pixie’s Must-Haves
An amazing staff
Good attitude and a lot of energy
Endless supply of great things from auctions
OT: How do you differentiate between vintage and “old junk”?
PW: I know that everyone in DC is too busy to paint or repair or send pieces out to upholster, so everything I buy, I make an effort to make sure it can come off the truck and go into someone’s home. I usually buy what I like. My staff gets to do some buying, too. Mostly, I look for pieces that are functional and comfortable and in good shape. My customers know they’ll be getting a good product. We’re aware what the going price is. I price everything to move.
OT: What’s the secret to winning that really clutch item at the auction?
PW: The secret is just to stand around and not act too interested. The auctions are all very different; some are full of people with conservative taste who like traditional furniture, so if there’s a pair of lime green arm chairs, those have my name on them. The most important thing is to get good rest and be ready and on top of it at the auction – and don’t be too enthusiastic.
Miss Pixie’s: 1626 14th St. NW, DC; 202-232-8171; www.misspixies.com