Growing Oxnard family business turns second-hand clothes, furniture into profits

·4 min read

When her daughters were growing up, Guadalupe Márquez taught them the value of thrifting and buying second-hand.

She and daughters Irene Márquez and Frances Márquez-Flores have turned that lesson into a growing business, MIJA studios, which operates out of the matriarch's Oxnard home.

Along the way, they adapted and evolved as the market changed and the pandemic struck. The trio also learned to play to their strengths.

MIJA Studios restores vintage furniture, home décor and clothing for resale. Mija is derived from the Spanish term "mi hija," meaning my daughter. The company name emphasizes the owners' relationship.

Guadalupe Márquez, Irene Márquez and Frances Márquez-Flores search thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales in search of vintage items that can be mended and refurbished. Most of their merchandise is at least 30 years old.

As a retired seamstress who grew up in a family of carpenters, Guadalupe Márquez can restore clothes and furniture to their former glory. With her skills and her daughters’ business savvy and sense of style, MIJA studios is proving to be a successful business.

The business, which got its business license in November, can earn upward of $16,000 a month and has an inventory of about 3,000 items.

“One of the best things is to hear my mom say, ‘I’ve worked a lifetime, and I never made this type of money,’” Márquez-Flores said.

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When Márquez-Flores returned to Oxnard from abroad in 2018, she didn’t recognize her childhood home. Her mom and sister had redecorated the house and refurbished the old furniture.

Márquez-Flores saw potential in furniture that wasn't used in the remodel and convinced her mom to refurbish the pieces. The two painted the items, styled them with old vases and lamps and put them up for sale on Facebook.

They sold within two days.

The pair began attending a Ventura flea market in search of furniture, reselling pieces refurbished and styled with vintage vases and other knickknacks from the household at their own booth. When the decorations sold faster than the furniture, they knew they were on to something.

In early 2020, Irene Márquez returned home from San Francisco with a few ideas. She suggested the mother-daughter duo begin selling clothes, and they added her to the team.

“Growing up, shopping at thrift stores, secondhand, has never been anything new or anything that embarrassed us,” said Irene Márquez.

Pandemic shifts

Then the pandemic hit. The thrift stores and markets MIJA studios was buying merchandise from shut down. The flea markets and venues where they sold their wares also closed.

MIJA studios decided to up their social media presence to save the business.

Every Sunday for about five months, the team pulled the cars out of the driveway to set up a small display of their items. The sisters showcased each piece on Instagram Live. Their social media account boasts 1,244 followers.

MIJA studios gained a following and was able to increase its sales.

Because the public stayed indoors during the pandemic, homeowners and renters began remodeling their living spaces, Irene Márquez said. As a result, MIJA studios saw a demand for refurbished furniture.

Guadalupe Márquez drove around the neighborhood in search of furniture left on curbs. Family and friends, recognizing the family’s potential, also donated furniture.

By the end of 2020, MIJA studios was again selling merchandise in person. The business then launched its website earlier this year, allowing them to reach customers across the country.

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Next, the three owners plan to move into a brick-and-mortar storefront. With clients in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties, they have yet to find the right location.

Irene Márquez and Márquez-Flores, who both own other businesses, want MIJA studios to expand and hire employees so they can take a hands-off approach.

Guadalupe Márquez is just glad to spend time with her daughters.

“(I’m) happy to work with the girls, hang out with them and also fight with them more often,” Guadalupe Márquez said through a translator.

Brian J. Varela covers Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Camarillo. He can be reached at brian.varela@vcstar.com or 805-477-8014. You can also find him on Twitter @BrianVarela805.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Oxnard family turns hobby into thriving business