By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Alexis Hadjopulos is an unrepentant, unreformed shopaholic. He started his vintage furniture business thusly: “I bought one thing, put it online, sold it, then I bought two things. Then with that money, I bought four things. Then I started selling at flea markets, but that gets old. I’d have to wake up at 4 in the morning and sit in the sun.”
The business is called TINI, which stands for “This Is Not IKEA.” When Hadjopulos, who is 31, moved to Los Angeles, his home was like a page out of an IKEA catalog. He’d visit friends, and their places looked exactly like the pages of an IKEA catalog. Swapping everything out for unique vintage seemed to be the answer. “But my father had just cut me off. I needed to find a way to keep shopping and not spend my own money. I would go to garage sales and see cool things. What if I just buy one and sell it online?”
Just as IKEA presents a novel way to shop for home goods (a big box of a store with cheap bookcases and dressers unassembled in smaller boxes), so does TINI. Customers browse the photo gallery on thisisnotikea.com, discover something they like, set up an appointment to see it and, if all goes as planned, buy it. Often it doesn’t go as planned. People come in for a table and leave with a wooden laughing-Buddha statuette. If Hadjopulos had a dollar for every time that happened, the total would be a lot. But he can’t tell you precisely what it was, because, for a long time, he didn’t keep track.
“When I came into this, Alexis didn’t know how much he was spending and how much he was making,” his business partner, Tom Whitman, likes to say. Hadjopulos recommends making a list beforehand, because the experience of seeing the stuff in person can get overwhelming.
To keep overhead low, he stores merchandise in his own small house on the Miracle Mile. He has an entire room devoted only to nightstands. “If it hasn’t been sold, it’s for sale,” he says, surveying the place ruefully: the upended chairs stacked one on top of the other, the Coca-Cola signs, the galaxy of old globes. “When people walk in, it’s either ‘Wow’ or ‘Oh, my God.’”
“In a couple of months that living room will look completely different,” says Whitman, as he enters through the front door. “Do you want to explain about the globes?”
“Oh, I started buying globes because I got a lot of requests for globes,” says Hadjopulos. “I was, like, ‘Really? Globes?’ Now I think they’re amazing.”
Hadjopulos and Whitmanscour a hundred garage and estate sales a week for kitchen tables, desks, chairs, barstools, paintings, ottomans, sofas, love seats and more. On waking up to shop, even though he got no sleep the night before, Hadjopulos says: “It kills me! But I do it. What if this was the day I find the best stuff?
“When I was a little kid living in Spain, my dad and I would go to flea markets,” he continues. “I would ask him to leave me there. I was 9. I didn’t need my dad rushing me. I needed time to look at a thing and understand it.” He picks up a candlestick and examines it intently. “I need to be buying all the time. I buy. I shop. I have a problem. As long as I buy it and I own it for a minute, I’m okay. I don’t need to possess it. As long as I hand over the money and get the thing, I’m happy.”
For a while everything he bought was Moroccan. Then he got turned on to the beauty of industrial metal tables. “What happened to our Moroccan trunks?” said his Moroccan buyers. Then he developed an appreciation for Asian Modern. “What happened to our industrial metal tables?” said his industrial aficionados. Consequently, Hadjopulos’ house looks like a Noah’s ark of furniture, a little bit of everything from everywhere.
“So I close this area here if I get tired of seeing it,” he says, pulling a folding screen across the living room. “When we started the business, Tom said, ‘My house is not gonna look like this.’” Whitman describes his own style as “modern, minimalist aesthetic accented with unique vintage pieces.” Whitman’s house has been featured in The New York Times. Hadjopulos’ house, or certain parts of it — the dining room, the nightstand room, the bar — is featured on TINI’s Web site. Hadjopulos has also been featured, if only accidentally. When he takes pictures of mirrors, he usually ends up in the photo, reflected in the glass. He is slim, with short, dark hair, and almost always wears a tight-fitting T-shirt (he owns more than 500). Today, his shirt says: “Join the army. Travel to exotic cities, meet exciting unusual people, and kill them.”
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