Michael Taylor has been an aficionado of vintage and antique stores for years, but he has one gripe.
“I loathe going into an antique store and finding something I love, then realizing I can’t buy it if I want to keep eating,” he said.
Making affordable and stylish compatible was his goal when he opened up his downtown San Luis Obispo shop, Ontology, in late 2010.
The store defies categorization. Yes, you will find thrift store prices, but the items are carefully handpicked, spiffed up, then artfully displayed. As with antique stores, you’ll find old items, but also a handful of new things. Categories include vintage and antique furniture, glassware, kitchen and tableware, art, home accents, jewelry, books and DVDs.
Multiple styles coexist here. There are cottage pieces such as vintage furniture painted in breezy hues like crisp white or pale turquoise. There are rustic elements, like old galvanized buckets and distressed wood furniture. Taylor even includes a few contemporary pieces in his collection.
While you will find a few collectible items and antiques, Taylor shies away from anything too valuable.
“The pricier pieces usually sit in the store a little longer,” he explained. “We like to keep our inventory fresh.”
He and wife Deborah Hales spend Saturday mornings power shopping at yard sales. On Sundays, a friend watches the store while the couple hits the Nipomo Swap Meet. Occasionally, this pair of seasoned treasure hunters will travel out of town to larger venues, such as the Rose Bowl or Santa Monica flea markets. On a rare occasion, Taylor will unearth a treasure on Craigslist or take in an item brought in by a customer.
“We look for things we think are cool, but at the same time we have to keep in mind our clientele and if it will sell,” Taylor remarked.
On Mondays, the store is closed so that Taylor has time to work on furniture. A construction worker by trade, he’ll freshen up a piece with a new coat of paint and hardware, or even perform repairs such as re-gluing or replacing parts.
Still, he is adamant about keeping prices reasonable – something he can accomplish because he picks up pieces at a bargain, performs repairs himself, and runs the small shop almost entirely on his own. Even large pieces of furniture, such as painted dressers, are generally priced between $100 and $150.
Taylor opted to include a few new items in the mix. Currently, he offers goods like kids’ kitchen utensils, reusable shopping bags made from recycled water bottles, and note cards.
As for the unique name? He and Hales were originally going to call the store Stuff, but wanted something edgier. He did an online search of the word “stuff” and came up with Ontology. The word refers to the study of existence, or taking another look at ordinary things, which is precisely what Taylor is hoping to inspire his customers to do.
Ontology is located at 956 Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo, 783-2616.