Discover more from Release and Gather
The Evolution of Rescued Revisions
an interview with Rivers Dupree
More new subscribers found their way to Release and Gather this week: madeckmann, tabbi, thakkar, EmptyRedBullCan (hands down the most interesting name on my subscriber list to date!), Melstac, Philip, and Wayne. Welcome! I hope you enjoy this week’s edition where I’m trying something new—an interview with a local business owner who’s killing it with the “Release and Gather” concept!
Settle in for the next few minutes wherever you are and enjoy this story that underscores the idea behind Release and Gather—letting go of expectations and finding yourself with open hands to gather all the good that’s waiting.
Denham Springs, Louisiana, a suburb of Baton Rouge, is home to Antique Village, a thriving antiques and arts district in a historic downtown area. For 20+ years volunteers and shopkeepers have grown the locale into a hub that draws vendors and shoppers of all ages, including yours truly.
My husband and I have an affinity for old things—buildings, furniture, home decor, and even people (though I should probably use the word “mature” or “seasoned” instead of “old”). We find value in something that’s been around a while. Our home was built in 1938, and the building we run as an event space was constructed in 1903. Sure, old things mean more to renovate or fix, but there’s something about tearing out a closet and finding the name of one of the builders scrawled on a board in the upper part that gets my wheels turning.1 What hands constructed this space? What conversations have happened among these walls? Who were the children who sat on the front steps according to the black and white photo found behind the mantel?
Our first visit to Antique Village was on a date shortly after we met, and from time to time we still enjoy wandering through the stores full of relics and repurposed pieces. Those shopping trips introduced me to a store I found myself revisiting and following on social media—Rescued Revisions.
As 2022 was coming to a close, I hopped on Facebook and saw this post:
The post included a TikTok video (that I can’t embed here due to limitations in Substack—here’s the link), and as I watched the montage of photos documenting the renovation of the new space, I was floored. Here’s the thing that got me:
This is the owner of one of my favorite antique store. This…this…I don’t want to say “baby,” but how old is he?! (Forgive me for my ageism, please.) After several years of being a fan of the store, I learned the mastermind behind Rescued Revisions is quite young!
I’m accustomed to walking into these secondhand stores and finding proprietors with graying hair, flannel shirts, and an AARP card. Okay—maybe I exaggerate, but I’d never met someone this young in the antique business. Owner Rivers Dupree was an anomaly, and his TikTok teaser of overcoming adversity completely grabbed my attention. I had to meet him.
So I did what any curious extrovert would do—I immediately reached out via Facebook Messenger and asked if I could interview him. Rivers graciously agreed, the stars finally aligned, and now the whole world can read the story of this creative entrepreneur who was forced to let go of his plans (over and over again) but found treasure in the chaos.
Rivers warned me that our chat might catch him during his behind-the-scenes work of refinishing and painting furniture, so I wasn’t surprised when he met me in paint-splattered clothes and we settled into a spot in the back of the store next to a freshly stained table. I confessed right away that I was taken aback by his age when I saw the video and needed to understand how a guy his age becomes the owner of a thriving antique store. Thankfully, he wasn’t offended and was happy to oblige.
The Early Creative Years
Rivers grew up with parents who renovated and redecorated their house one room at a time, so he was exposed to fixing things up—literally repairing broken things and also making something old look fresh and new. He also learned how to turn a sale by watching his mom clean out items around the house and sell them in garage sales. Rivers also enjoyed these projects because it meant discovering long-forgotten items that he could craft into something more up-to-date. Always creative, he enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what he could make out of things cast off by others.
When he was very young, his aunt introduced him to Antique Village and her own love of antiquing, and later, he discovered painted furniture at boutique furniture stores and first had the idea that this was something he could really do.
I could see how an unattractive piece of furniture was before and then how good it looked after the transformation. I started watching tutorials on YouTube and would pick up discarded furniture from the side of the road to try to refurbish it—and some of those pieces had to be put right back on the side of the road! But others turned out really good.
I sold my first few pieces on Facebook Marketplace and then managed to secure a booth at a local antique mall. I was only 15 or 16 at the time and didn’t have my driver’s license, so my mom had to sign all the paperwork for it and drive me and all my stuff there. That was one of the only places that would give a 16-year-old a shot at a booth.
Rivers began envisioning a life where reselling old furniture and home goods could be a full-time career, but he attended a very progressive school that strongly encouraged students to enroll in college courses during high school. His parents also encouraged furthering his education so he’d have a backup plan if the antique business didn’t work out. He couldn’t see himself sitting in a classroom for four more years, but he also wondered if he should pursue a safer vocation.
Creativity + Opportunity = a Grand Opening
In August 2016 at the beginning of Rivers’ final year of high school, Denham Springs and surrounding areas experienced catastrophic flooding that submerged thousands of houses and hundreds of businesses due to an unnamed storm that dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana than Hurricane Katrina did in 2005.2 So many people lost everything—their homes, their furnishings, their businesses. As they began to rebuild, they also began buying replacement furniture.
During that time, Rivers was operating three booths at a local store. He saw that people were buying all that he offered, and confidence in his ability and his dream took hold. While he understood it wouldn’t be easy, he knew he could figure out how to make enough money selling antiques and reclaimed furniture to provide for himself.
Rivers graduated in May 2017 and leased his first building in July. He’d been saving up inventory, buying things as he could find them and putting them in storage units. The 1,800-square-foot space had been entirely renovated after the flood—all new sheetrock, electrical, and paint—so it was fresh and clean. His parents were there to help him get the store ready, but they still had doubts:
I think they were confident that I was crazy and that I wasn’t going to make it [with this business]. They kept encouraging me to have a “Plan B,” but I told them I didn’t have a Plan B. I was determined to make this work—I knew I could do it. Honestly, so many people doubting me at a young age was kind of what pushed me to make it work. There were many days that I wanted to quit, but all the questioning of whether this was going to work was what pushed me to make it work.
For nearly two years, Rivers worked the business by himself, manning the store, ringing up sales, and still finding time to buy and paint furniture. Then he brought in three close friends to rent vendor space in the back of the building.
Relocating, COVID, and Getting Really Creative
In 2019, when he heard that a larger building had come available, the wheels began turning. He inquired and found it was close to 3,000 square feet of space and only $100 more per month to lease. This would allow him to add more dealers and have help with the floor sales to free him up to do more work with furniture. It was a no-brainer.
It was an old building that needed refreshing, so his dad came and helped with some minor upgrades like recovering the ceiling and giving the place 30 gallons of white paint. He and his dealers moved their goods from one store to the other—literally dollying furniture down the street! The new building allowed him to add more dealers, which helped with overhead.
In January 2020, Rivers was finally able to hire his first employee to work at the store three days a week. This would allow him more time to focus on creating more custom pieces for the store. Except, life threw a curveball. In March, COVID-19 hit the U.S. and closed the doors of all non-essential businesses.
I cried for the first week and a half and sunk into thinking the worst, telling myself This is awful! You’re gonna lose everything. I had just moved into that second location. I had taken on a lot more responsibility with all these vendors. All I could think about was that these people were relying on me to get them sales. For a lot of my vendors, this is what they do for a living—it’s not a hobby.
At the time, Rivers was working on one of his flip houses (yeah—he does that, too!) and focused his energy there and took a few days to think through what was next. After a week he realized COVID was here to stay for a while, so the game had to change. He pulled himself out of his pity party and resolved to figure something out.
I refused to lose everything. So we started posting photos of merchandise on social media and began holding Facebook Live sales. We were already posting new arrivals, but we’d never done live events before. And I did not want to be on that camera! I was so nervous when we did the first one, but as I got into it, I realized I was talking about stuff I love and know a lot about—which was easy.
All the dealers were ready to help, and his employee also came in to help with live sales. It worked! People were stuck at home and tired of looking at the same walls. They were ready to tackle some home decor changes, but they couldn’t go to stores and shop. The live events were a huge success with Rescued Revisions having two months of record-breaking sales during the COVID lockdown.
You could just see the store changing. Before, when the store was open, it always looked presentable, but during the lockdown I designated one area as our photo corner. Everything else was going to be a hot mess, and that was okay. We emptied that whole store of inventory at least twice, and since we weren’t open every day, I was able to work a lot more on inventory.
So we were moving inventory via online shopping and sidewalk pickups, but dealers are consumers, too. We need pieces to refurbish, but we couldn’t shop either. I had some wholesale, online connections where I was able to buy a few 18-wheeler shipments, but it was kind of sketchy because you didn’t know what you were getting. Luckily, I had tons of stuff at home that had been sitting. I kept saying, I’ll get to this one day. Then one day happened. I finally had time to focus on everything in backstock that needed a leg fixed or something touched up.
Rivers kept hosting live sales after reopening the physical store later in 2020, but he cut the frequency. Once he started managing the store again full-time and had to stage the inventory, he couldn’t devote as much time to online sales, but customers loved shopping that way. COVID left his business strategy altered for good.
Because a lot of auctions shuttered with COVID, many of Rivers’ sources for buying had changed at this point. Also, some of his best sources for furniture were hundreds of miles away, and shipments were affected by truck driver shortages in the following months. Still, Rescued Revisions was gaining momentum again.
As if long-term COVID effects on his business weren’t enough, in January 2021, Rivers contracted the coronavirus and felt the effects for months. Normally a very active person, he was sapped of physical strength.
I was short of breath. I couldn’t even load a trailer anymore. People would see me sit down and wonder what was wrong with me because I never sit down. I was a different person. That was probably even tougher than going through COVID in the business sense. This was a different level of sick for me—more than I’d ever experienced. I’d go into the shop and paint a couple of drawers and that was all I could do for the day. I would have to go home and go back to sleep.
Did anything good come from those months of illness? Rivers said it was like a little break even though he felt miserable, and he was really glad he had hired people who could help during that time. He also had time to think about the business, even if he couldn’t physically work it as much.
My brain is always trying to figue out what’s next—what can I change? I kept thinking about the fact that I had my two busiest months without even having a storefront, and I began to wonder if I really needed a storefront? Could I operate from a warehouse without store hours and without employees?
A few months after recovering from COVID, Rivers’ two-year lease was up for renewal. The owner asked him to sign another two-year contract, but those terms seemed too long since he was considering whether he wanted to continue a storefront. The owner would only agree to a month-to-month lease with a 30-day notice required if either party wanted to terminate the agreement, which Rivers was fine with, but he admits he didn’t consider that she might do just that if she found another tenant willing to sign a long-term lease.
30 Days to Vacate
Three months later, in January 2022, the landlord forced his hand. She submitted a 30-day notice of termination, and now Rivers had to make a move. He’d already been touring properties and meeting with potential investors and realtors to try to purchase his own building rather than continuing to sink money into rentals, but he’d not been able to find anything suitable.
When I got the notice that I had to be out in 30 days, I literally started sweating and shaking wondering what I was going to do. Of course, I’d already been thinking I could relocate my store or move to an online only business, but those ideas were on my own timeline—not 30 days.
Rivers immediately called his investor and looked at the property he’d already toured, but he quickly realized there was no way he could close on a loan in 30 days. He shifted to his realtor and began touring rental properties, often up to five a day.
He had 14 dealers with booths in his store, and he knew he had to tell them—their jobs were on the line, too, not just his. Did he wait until he found a new space to tell them, or tell them immediately? He chose transparency and optimism.
Calling a meeting within two days, Rivers assured his dealers that with the help of his realtor, he would figure something out and they would have a store in 30 days. But a week later, he still hadn’t found anything. He wanted to stay in Denham Springs, but it was beginning to look like that might not happen.
I wanted to stay in Denham Springs—these are my people. A lot of our customers aren’t from Denham but we’ve built a community here. It felt like home. It was home.
To add an extra layer of stress to the situation, it was tax season and Rivers had no permanent mailing address. Because the housing market was so good, he’d sold his house in November and moved into an apartment until he could find his next flip house.
It was a learning curve having no mailing address at home, no mailing address for a business. Then my email address, which was hosted by a local internet provider went poof because my parents moved. I felt destroyed!
This probably would have been a great time to have a nervous breakdown and throw in the towel, but Rivers persisted. Through a fateful social media post, he learned of a business owner who had a welding shop and a five-year plan for retirement. He was willing to lease his building, so the realtor scheduled a tour.
I looked on Google Maps and had my reservations. In some of the photos it was boarded up. I just didn’t know. In my line of business, I can see past the rough edges, but I wasn’t sure I could transform this space. There were stains and possible mold in the front from leaks. Only the back had been used for his welding shop, but the rest of the building was used for storage of stuff. The air conditioning had not been running. But the only thing going through my head was that I had 20 days left. So I asked, “If I sign a lease, how fast can you be out of here?” He said 30 days, and I said, “Sir, 30 days is not gonna work for me. I have to be in here in less than 30 days.”
Rivers brought some friends and dealers back to look at it, and with their help he began to see what the building could be—not in 30 days, but someday. The numbers worked, and negotiations with the owner made this crazy idea seem doable. He said if Rivers was willing to help, they could start pushing his belongings closer to the back and begin getting the front section move-in ready. He signed the lease, got the key, and went to work with only three weeks left on his deadline.
Open for Business—Again
The plan was to open in three phases. They finished renovating the main showroom in the front first, pushing the landlord’s stuff to the back as they worked. Rivers finished painting two days before they had to be out of the other building, and the dealers began moving things. Amanda and Chelsea, who worked the front counter, stayed behind, packing and cleaning at the old building so he could focus on the new one.
After meeting the 30-day deadline to vacate the old location, they took three weeks to set everything up at the new building—no online sales, no open doors, just placement and styling of merchandise. On March 18, 2022, despite all odds, Rescued Revisions reopened.
Our reopening was exciting, but crazy busy—just wild! The parking lot had not totally been cleared, so there were cars lining the street with customers waiting to shop. There was a sense of relief, but we were also exhausted. And in all the excitement, I was still thinking—We’re not done. We have to keep pushing his belongings further back to take over more and more of the space. We have a lot left to do here.
The original goal for the second phase was April. The plan was to help the landlord finish moving all his stuff out, then paint, build walls for new dealer booths, find those dealers to occupy the space, and purchase enough new inventory to finish filling the 10,000 square feet.
The landlord (who Rivers noted was fantastic to work with) wasn’t completely out by the end of April as they hoped, but Rivers did what he seems to do best—he rolled with the punches. The previous business had been there since the 1990s, so there was a lot for the landlord to move. He was finally finished on September 1, and Rescued Revisions held their official Grand Opening on September 10 after Rivers worked his renovation magic on the back section.
Phase three is still in progress and will include refreshing the outside with new exterior paint and completing a fountain area with flower boxes and an old firetruck as a yard ornament. He also wants to restripe the parking lot because it stays filled.
I was really worried to move [a mile] outside the Antique Village because that was home, but we have been so much busier at our new location. When you drive through Antique Village, the streets are so narrow that you miss signs on the building and what’s in the windows. We’re at a busy intersection now. The stoplight gives motorists time to see what’s displayed in our windows. So I was afraid to make the move, but this ended up being a better location for us.
So far, Rivers and his team have beat every sales number from the old store—even doubling sales. The move, though unanticipated, was clearly good for business. And if you’re still not sold on what a superstar he is, during the six months of renovating and reestablishing his business in a new location, Rivers’ mobile number was canceled, his vehicle died and had to be replaced, and he bought and began renovating another house.
It’s been a very long year. For the New Year, I usually reflect on all that I’ve been through in the last year, and this year was no different. It was hard, but there is so much good that came out of having to move, even though I didn’t plan it. I’m so much further than where I was a year ago.
Everything in my life is new. There were a lot of hurdles to get through but had I not sold the house in 2019, I wouldn’t have been able to afford a new vehicle and still had the finances to renovate this place, move into it, and buy enough inventory to fill it. It all worked out as it needed to.
For now, Rescued Revisions will be at its current location for a while. During the chaos of moving, Rivers realized that he loves having the physical store and seeing all the people—dealers, employees, and customers alike.
When we moved here, the landlord wanted a five-year lease, so I was like, let’s do it. I’m already thinking What will be the next thing? I’m always thinking of different options, but for now I’m ready to stay here through the five years and settle down a bit.
2022 turned life upside down in so many ways for Rivers Dupree, so settling down a bit sounds like a good plan for 2023. Can he do it?
Read more about Rescued Revisions:
Interestingly, when we renovated part of our home two years ago, we found a signature on a board high in the closet: “Tiny LeBlanc Des Allemands, La March 24, 1939”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Louisiana_floods and https://denhamstrong.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Denham-Springs-Recovery-Plan-121217-Final.pdf