History Lesson

This couple invokes a bygone era with their victorian antiques and reproductions.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs: Melissa and Randy Rolston, 47 and 49, respectively, founders of Victorian Trading Co. in Lenexa, Kansas

Description: Wholesaler and retailer of Victorian-themed artifacts and antiques

Startup: $200 in 1986

2005 projected sales: $15 million

Celebrating life: In 1986, Melissa and Randy Rolston celebrated the birth of their baby by sending out personally illustrated and printed Victorian announcements. Impressed friends requested the Rolstons do their announcements, and a small greeting-card business was born. Now, nearly two decades later, they've expanded their business to include a line of replicated, functional items, including lamps, jewelry, clothing and furniture, dating back to the Victorian era.

Haunted headquarters: Along the way, the Rolstons "upgraded" their location from their attic to a beautiful, century-old building, which they later discovered was once a jail and night court. Their warehouse occupied the courthouse, and the shipping department replaced the dunk tank. Employees entertained themselves with spooky tales. The company has since outgrown that building, employing up to 140 people and working with factories in China and India and artisans nationwide.

Antiquity meets modernity: Stationery was once the Rolstons' primary focus-now it accounts for only 10 percent of sales. In addition to selling via catalog and in more than 6,000 gift stores and museum shops in North America and Japan, they've had to embrace the internet and e-mail to sell to today's high-tech customers. One thing remains constant: their mission to preserve history. Their next big project is to publish a compilation of stories they've heard during their search for items. "I see us as historians," says Melissa. "We're recreating artifacts that are just too good to be forgotten."

More from Entrepreneur

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

One-on-one online sessions with our experts can help you start a business, grow your business, build your brand, fundraise and more.
Book Your Session

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.