Meaningful treasures found at Miller Island Company

 In Business

Travis Bell sees value where others may not.

He has strict standards for what he carries at Miller Island Company – it must be vintage or handmade – which add to the meaning of things. 

Having left the modern day world of fashion behind, Bell has opted to stock his store with quality pieces that have stood the test of time, have had a previous life and have most likely had meaning for people.

He said he was working in Toronto in the field of visual merchandising when he became disillusioned by the industry and what is referred to as fast-fashion: it moves quickly from the catwalk to the mall and is often poorly made in a far-away country that has low standards for wages and working conditions. The goods are cheap and don’t last. They are considered disposable in that people may have them for one season.

While living in Forest Hill Bell started to find things on the curb, furniture that people had discarded but was good quality.

“I thought, I could probably sell some of this stuff,” he said. 

He fixed it up, and putting his visual merchandising skills to work, he started posting his refurbished items online and made some sales. 

“I’m selling stuff that already has a life,” said Bell.

Over time, a style started to develop, one he calls retro bohemian. He gravitates toward wicker and rattan and was thrilled when he found his first peacock chair, an elaborate round chair with a tall, wide back. That California beach house vibe, is popular with Millennials, he said. 

That style was popular in the 60s and 70s and although the market for vintage collectables has been strong for a while, what is considered vintage keeps changing. Bell said he is starting to carry stuff from the 80s because it is nostalgic of his own childhood and that of his contemporaries. He has brought in pastel coloured ceramics and lamps in dusty rose, which he says has been coopted Millennial pink.

But at the same time, macramé is making a comeback. Bell recently hosted a macramé workshop at his Creemore store, where there is also a significant space dedicated to the distinct browns and golds of the 70s.

Miller Island Company has a thriving online presence but has also evolved to have a permanent storefront. Bell set up as a vendor at last year’s Creeemore Vintage Festival and then continued with a pop up show out of a camper on Caroline Street West. He eventually moved into a small shop there, where he plans to stay.

Miller Island Company is located on Caroline Street West. Find ways to shop at millerislandcompany.com.

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