February marks the one-year anniversary of the opening of Julie Chiodo’s boutique, Bayside Vintage Living, in downtown Benicia. Every inch of the 650 square foot shop is filled with carefully selected European and vintage merchandise, with a coastal farmhouse vibe. Amidst the fresh smell of French triple milled soaps, many of Julie’s handpicked items are rustic, well crafted, and bear a timeworn patina that tells a pleasing story.
“I carry things that have a history, that tell a story, and that often have multiple uses. There is a past life to the early 1900s that draws me in, and has always been interesting to me,” she says. “I love the simplicity of those items, and of the times.”
Dealers of vintage and antique treasures tend to create an extended family, each finding their niche and looking out for each other. William Berg, of William’s Antiks in Benicia, specializes in French club chairs, and has worked with Julie over the years. “Julie is known for having a good eye. She’s honest, easy going and has great enthusiasm,” says Berg. “Her store is wonderfully curated with charming vignettes that not only draw you in, but help you imagine what it would look like in your own home.”
Since childhood, Julie has had an eye for design. She dreamed of going to design school, but couldn't afford it so she followed her passion at home and for friends. When her children were very young, Julie became so good at finding treasures she was asked to be a buyer for a local dealer. That lead to eventually getting her own spot in an antiques shop downtown, and later she was invited to sell her treasures at the popular Summer Cottage Antiques in Petaluma. Now she’s a part-time manager there, coordinating 26 to 30 dealers.
But for Julie, family always comes first. She and her husband Chris moved to Benicia 30 years ago, when he was studying at the Maritime Academy on Mare Island. They have three children in their late teens: Taylor, Cole and Jake. “I tell my kids that I am proudest of them when they are kind,” she says. “And I’m fine with whatever they are doing, as long as they have purpose in every day.”
Julie’s parents were teen sweethearts, and are still married after 48 years. They worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, and she and her younger brother were latchkey kids. “I got my drive from my mom,” says Julie. “She is not a sit down kind of person. She taught me that you don’t always have to follow the rules, and that it’s better to work 80 hours for yourself that 40 hours for someone else.”
Building community is a driving force for Julie, and if her merchandise isn’t vintage, it’s handmade by local artists. She plans to offer classes in traditional crafts like calligraphy, flower arranging and wreath making. For Valentine’s Day she’s working with a local artist to create reclaimed wood hearts exclusively for her shop. “I want people to come into my house or my shop and feel good, safe, and comfortable. It’s not just about the material items, it’s about the feeling you create.”