Victoria Swift: Classy hunter and gatherer

01/24/2013

For some retailers of arts and crafts, personal taste is sometimes a secondary consideration when trying to maintain sales. But for Victoria Swift, collecting is more than just a business.

“It’s a personal thing,” explained Ms. Swift, whose store, Vita Collage, has remained a fixture for collectors in West Marin since the late 1990’s.

In display cases and atop shelves, Ms. Swift has displayed over the years a trove of fashion accessories, textiles, jewelry, crafts and home furnishings, among other things, all of which she said are an extension of her “viewpoint.”

It is a taste, she explained, that has resonated with many customers, some of whom have traveled from across the county and Bay Area to the store on Highway One for years. “Everyday,” Ms. Swift said, “somebody expresses about how this is their kind of place.”

Ms. Swift moved to Marin from her hometown in Los Angeles in the late 1960’s, before she and her husband, Robert Cain, purchased what is now the Olema Druid’s Hall, where they raised their two children before building a home in Point Reyes Station.

The couple, who now rents out the cottage, also runs a local construction company, Cove Construction, from which they have pooled funds since the early 1980’s to help offset costs of the other two businesses.

Ms. Swift opened Vita Collage in 1998 next to Cowgirl Creamery, shortly thereafter relocating to Olema for a few years before moving back to Point Reyes Station, to which she has drawn an increasing number of customers in recent years.

Like other retailers, Ms. Swift has for long enjoyed a “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle. “I’ve always gone to rummage sales and flea markets,” said Ms. Swift, who traces her love for arts and crafts to her parents and grandparents.

But it is a pursuit involving “a lot of labor,” she said. Her collection ranges from handmade silk scarves from a Rhode Island seamstress to ornate tableware from a Vermont craftswoman, and reflects years of travel to tradeshows across the country and abroad.

On these trips she is regularly accompanied by her colleague, Sasha Ione. “We’re a riot when we do it,” Ms. Ione said, adding that they sometimes offer “mini critiques” to retailers.

And after years of searching for new merchandise, Ms. Swift said “it’s still exciting to find things that are special.”


To learn more about Vita Collage, located on Mainstreet in Point Reyes Station, visit vitacollage.com.