When Ellie Biscoe began the process of purchasing her first home, a fixer-upper two-bedroom condo in South Boston, she started searching for decor at thrift and antique stores in New England. Her style is eclectic, so most anything fits: gold-framed mirrors, wooden bowls, local art, antique furniture.
The 25-year-old recruiter wanted to share her finds with friends and family, so in January she began posting 60-second videos of her trips to antique stores to her 20 TikTok followers as @biscbro. She was shocked when her second-ever video, showing her experience shopping at the Cambridge Antique Market, got thousands of views in a matter of days.
After that second TikTok, her comments section flooded with suggestions to visit her followers’ favorite thrift and antique stores around New England. She received so many that she set off on her TikTok journey to visit as many of the region’s stores as she could. As of mid-March, her follower count had grown to 12,100 with her videos garnering more than 55,000 likes.
“It grew from me just showing what I’m going to put in my apartment, and now I’m traveling to all of these antique shops that my followers want to see me explore,” explained Biscoe.
Before the pandemic, Biscoe spent her days traveling around the country as a campus recruiter for Dell Technologies. She said working from home started to take a toll, so she began posting on TikTok as a hobby. “Going antiquing around New England and bringing my followers along gives me the same high as traveling did before the pandemic,” said Biscoe. “My friends were going to brunch, and I’m going to antique shops in Rhode Island. This is what I like doing.”
Antiquing wasn’t a new experience for Biscoe, who said she’s often the youngest person in every antique store she walks in. “I hadn’t done it in five or six years, but I grew up antique shopping with my mom,” she explained. “On Sundays, we would go to church and then there were a ton of antique shops in Wrentham that we would go to after. It just stuck with me.”
Her popular videos are also boosting the business of the stores she highlights. After she posted a video of her exploring Canal Street Antique Mall in Lawrence, an employee reached out to her in the comment section and said the store had its highest day in sales in 20 years because of her video. “The impact it has made on the stores has been the most rewarding part,” said Biscoe. “That’s why I will continue to do it even after I furnish my apartment.”
Family and friends of the owners of Upstairs Downstairs Antiques on Beacon Hill, Fab Finds Foxboro in Foxborough, and Wrentham Country Store in Wrentham have all sounded off in her comments thanking Biscoe for her promotion and kind words about the stores. TikTok user @demb427 commented on her video posted January 24th, “My family owns the country store! Thank you for supporting them [two red heart emojis].”
Biscoe’s collected a list of antique and thrift stores across New England that has grown to 193 entries and can be accessed from her TikTok (@biscbro). She shares her list with her followers, because while some creators use their platform on TikTok to make money, Biscoe wants the benefit to go to the shops.
“I’ve had a few stores reach out to me that wanted to pay me, but I declined them,” said Biscoe. “I want to promote small businesses, especially the hole-in-wall ones that you never even knew were in your town.”
After posting a video featuring The Barn at 17 Antiques, which recently relocated from Somerville to Woburn, a few local residents flocked to her comments saying they had no idea the store even existed and thanked her for making them aware of such an amazing gem in their city. One resident, @curvedthreads on TikTok, commented on Biscoe’s Jan. 28 video featuring the store: “I lived .5 miles from this place for 20 years and had no idea it existed omg.”
While TikTok’s user base is mostly Gen Z, Biscoe says she has a good mix of younger and older followers viewing her antiquing adventures. She believes her videos are getting the younger generation into stores they never would have stepped in before. This has made a few antique store regulars complain in Biscoe’s comment section about the increased foot traffic she’s generated in their favorite stores. A comment by user @cannedseltzer on her Jan. 10 video reads, “Great, now this place is going to be overrun [eye roll emoji].”
Biscoe, an antique store regular herself, does not agree with commenters like this. “I’m sorry you’re going to have to deal with a few 20-year-olds in your favorite antique store,” explains Briscoe. “I’m helping bring in money so these stores will stay around longer for all of us.”
Biscoe believes members of Gen Z have taken to thrifting and antiquing because of the positive impact on the environment: “Going to IKEA and all these stores buying fast furniture that you use once and then you throw out is obviously not very good for Mother Earth.”
She even ran into a small group of her Gen Z followers when she visited a store on her list, Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket.
“A group of kids were staring at me and whispering ‘That’s the girl from TikTok.’ It was very weird and cool,” Biscoe said. “My one little celebrity moment from all of this, and I’m happy they were out here supporting small businesses because of my TikToks.”
Tiffany Coelho is a writer in Boston and a Publishing and Writing graduate student at Emerson College.