We don’t just put out old furniture and wait till somebody comes by and buys it.”
Anthony and Uriel Diaz, known as “the boys” to their loyal patrons, manage Karolina’s Antiques on Blanco Road. Still in their 20s, the brothers are younger, browner, and gayer than the average antique shop’s management. But while they may be the faces of the business, Karolina’s wouldn’t be possible without the rest of the Diaz family.
Anthony and Uriel’s mother owns the shop and curates inventory. Their stepfather acts as handyman and their younger sister does the paperwork. The boys’ respect for family—and strong women—can be seen in the way they run their business. The shop is named for the boys’ grandmother, who owns a shoe store in Mexico, and their mother introduced them to the antiques business early on when she first started selling at flea markets, then opened a furniture store that preceded Karolina’s. “My mother is and has always been my hero,” Anthony says. Acknowledging her struggle as a Mexican woman with a language barrier, he is grateful for what she has taughther children.
“My mother would take us to flea markets and she’d be like ‘Okay, guys, I’m gonna buy this couch. Make sure no one buys it.’ So we literally would sit on the couch and we were bodyguards. ‘It’s already sold!’” Uriel reminisces.
“‘Don’t even look at it! Don’t touch it!’ Little! I was 7 and he was 5 … I think it’s in our blood … I was just telling someone earlier I call myself a flea-market baby,” Anthony adds.
“So we have been doing this for such a long time … We are flea-market babies. We were raised here. It’s almost second nature to us,” says Uriel.
The idea of family also shapes the way the brothers treat customers, whom they want to feel at home while visiting the store. The boys try to get to know their patrons, and throw Christmas parties and host haunted houses to show their appreciation.“It’s not just a shopping place. It’s somewhere to have fun … We don’t just put out old furniture and wait till somebody comes by and buys it,” Anthony says.
While some managers may follow customers they think look suspicious, Uriel offers only one caution, “Have fun! Look around! Just don’t trip.”
“When you go to shops like this, they’re often run by older people, and we’re very young, so we’re always bubbly, always jumpin’ around, always greeting people. It almost feels like you know us already and that’s one thing I like, that we become your friends. There are many customers that cross over and just become our friends,” Uriel says.
The boys are adamant that all customers are welcome to join the Karolina’s family. Anthony even describes Karolina’s as an alternative safe space. “We’re lucky enough to have our parents support our lifestyle and the LGBT community, and I think it’s cool to have something outside of the Strip that supports the LGBT community. Somewhere you know you’re welcome, where you know you can come and hang out and walk around and not be judged.”
Uriel agrees. “I know a lot of businesses like this are run by older people that have different mindsets, and we come with a new vision … We want this to be a go-to zone for all of our gay and lesbian and trans friends … We want people to know here at Karolina’s, you’re welcome.”