Tuesday September 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Remem ber that vintage 1960s furniture? Those items featured on retro television shows like "Mad Men"? Well, they’re in demand again.

That’s Rebecca Barnini’s experience, and she has reason to know.

Barnini’s new business, "Circa," a small store located in the Greystone Build ing at 436 North St., features furniture from an era she refers to as "mid-century modern."

First used as a description in the mid-1950s, "mid-century mod ern" reflects mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development. Think egg- or tulip-shaped chairs.

"It’s in that time period, but has a certain look to it," Barnini said.

Local interest in mid-century modern furniture rose after shows like "Mad Men" -- which takes place in that era -- went on the air, according to Barnini.

"In this area, it kind of took off when those shows started," Barnini said. "It’s kind of like a Jetsons kind of thing."

Besides vintage furniture, Circa also offers furnishings, lighting, collectibles, art and locally made items. Barnini, who managed a used furniture store in Pittsfield for five years, independently financed her business with $5,000. She is Circa’s sole proprieter and lone employee, and has a two-year lease with the owner of the Grey stone Build ing, down town Pittsfield developer George Whal ing. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Barnini, who re fers to her business as a vintage shop -- "you say ‘antiques’ and it scares people away" -- said she gravitated toward the mid-century modern style be cause she found it popular with customers during the six years she collected and sold furniture on eBay and Craigslist. Circa’s target audience is anyone who appreciates recycled furniture and lighting.

"I just kind of saw how the market was going," Barnini said. "Mid-century pieces were going for crazy prices. I thought that this was the way to go."

Working online meant Barn ini missed the face-to-face interaction with her customers.

"I really just wanted to work for myself again, and wanted to fill a niche that wasn’t previously filled in the Berkshire County area," Barnini said.

The store’s name was inspired by her merchandise.

"I just kept going back to that word," Barnini said, referring to Circa. "When people talk about older items, they say, ‘circa 1920 to 1950,’ that kind of thing."

Circa’s location near the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue, in an area some refer to as "Upper North," is also a plus, Barnini said.

"I love having parking right next to it," she said. "That’s important downtown. Espec ially with furniture. When you carry something out, you don’t want to walk down the block. As far as foot traffic, it’s great."

Barnini recently found a new way to highlight her offerings.

"I actually put an ad on Craigslist for mid-century modern furniture, and at the end of the ad, I put, ‘Think "Mad Men."’ It’s funny how people relate to that," Barnini said.