Mitzi Lukowski believes antique shoppers are not as hungry as they used to be.
With the increased popularity of online shopping, Lukowski thinks people don’t know about the personal connections that can be found in an antique show.
The 30-something, self-proclaimed sentimental sap and owner of Miss Kitty’s Litterbox in Janesville encourages people to explore for vintage items and “keep the nostalgia alive.”
Lukowski will display a vintage cowboy collection of toys, home goods and clothing at the Annual Mid-Winter Antique Show on Jan. 6-7.
“Mitzi is young, bubbly and full of energy,” said Steve Bina, manager of the antique show, in an email to The Gazette. “As antique dealers age, we find very few younger people entering the business, so she is a hard-to-find exception.”
Lukowski considers herself ageless, she said. She often forgets how old she is because she can relate to people of any age.
It is important to connect with people of the next generation because otherwise nobody will be around to pass the torch, Lukowski said. She gets excited to see young people interested in her pieces.
Lukowski collected her first set of antique toys when she was 4 years old, she said. Her mother, Natalie Carrol, and Natalie’s twin brother, Daniel, shared with her their passion for collecting.
At 14, Lukowski won an 1800s coat at an auction for $5, she said. It is one of few items she refuses to part with.
“I think it’s stunning. I have always been a very sentimental person,” Lukowski said.
During a trip to Colorado with friends after high school, Lukowski discovered that her “truth” was in thrift shopping and knew she would never leave the business of sales and design.
When she returned home at age 19, she bought out a couple estates and used the purchases to stock her new business, Miss Kitty’s Litterbox.
Lukowski identifies closely with her zodiac sign, Leo, which inspired the name of her store, she said. At 19, she was not yet a lion but still a kitty, and the business was basically a box full of “cool crap.”
Her business includes collections of vintage furniture, decor, clothing, jewelry, toys and textiles, she said. Over the years, her business has become a more personal “buyer for hire” business, focusing on private clients.
One of those clients wore a dress from Lukowski at the White House, where it was photographed next to President Barack Obama, Lukowski said. She wished not to identify who was wearing the dress out of respect for the individual’s privacy.
Seeing the photograph of her dress at the White House brought Lukowski to tears, she said. She never imagined that would happen when she started her business as a teenager.
Every summer, Lukowski spends time away with friends in Southern California, she said. Those West Coast connections landed her a deal selling her vintage clothing designs to the wardrobe department for the Netflix original series “GLOW.”
Her successes as an vintage designer and seller comes from a deep passion and respect for antique items, she said. She recommends anyone who wants to go into antiquing start with what they love.
Lukowski wants antiquers and do-it-yourself Pinterest enthusiasts to learn to love and respect the integrity of each item, she said. Ripping apart beautiful antique pieces affects history.
The Janesville vintage enthusiast takes pride in being a single, self-employed, female homeowner, she said. Her career has been a journey of self-discovery.
She wants to soon start writing and speaking with the goal to empower women, Lukowski said. She wants to learn everything she learned from her business to help women find their inner beauty and feel inspired to do whatever they are passionate about.