In With the New for Area Vintage Stores

Is there still room for brick-and-mortar vintage stores in the age of Etsy and eBay?

[Oona's Experienced Vintage in Harvard Square / Photo by Melissa MacEwen]

Oona’s Experienced Clothing recently shuttered its Cafe Society (Jamaica Plain) and Outpost (Inman Square) locations. Artifaktori will soon close its Davis Square flagship. The retailers say that the consolidation is due to lower foot traffic at their satellite stores, and while the Charles Street Artifaktori and the Harvard Square Oona’s will remain open, they are both planning to put more emphasis on online sales.

“Each [vintage] piece is distinct, and the odds of that piece meeting its match or mate [in a particular location] are much less than if you were to put it online and have it open to everyone in the world who is that size,” says Ellie Mueller, manager of Oona’s Experienced.

Goodbye, brick-and-mortar? Keep reading to find out…

[The soon-to-close Davis Square location of Artifaktori / Photo by Melissa MacEwen]

To that end, Artifaktori just revamped its Etsy store and Oona’s plans to launch an online shop in May. (We also spoke with sales rep Eric Lachance from Davis Square’s Found — the store, which stocks mostly brand name consignment threads and some upscale vintage clothing, has had success with eBay. A fur coat, for instance, recently sold online for more than $10,000, Lachance says.)

But even as local vintage stores are ramping up their online efforts, they say there’s still a place for brick-and-mortar in the mix.

“People want to touch things,” Berkowitz says, and buying clothing online can be off-putting for a customer who wants to judge the quality for himself. Maintaining storefronts that stock clothing consolidated from satellite stores has also allowed Berkowitz and Mueller to display more of their popular, “knock out” pieces in one place while selling a broader selection of clothing online.

In Jamaica Plain, meanwhile, 40 South Street is perfectly happy with its storefront and has no current plans to expand beyond a website and Facebook page.

“We’re a store where people come and talk to us,” said co-manager Hayley Thompson-King. 40 South Street once tried to peddle wares on Etsy, but having clothing available for customers to browse and try on simply seems to work best for the shop and provides the valuable opportunity for human connection, she says.

— Melissa MacEwen

  • http://twitter.com/backinstylecom Back-In-Style.com

    My store BackInStyle.com has been online for the past 12 years. We have actually noticed an increase in the number of people who want to come over and try things on, see them first hand. Because of this we just opened a store in Miami. I do agree that being online gives you a much larger customer base, but especially when you’re dealing with vintage, I think it is important for people to be able to touch the quality.

  • Steven Bessellieu

    It’s a tough balance, especially when each piece is one-of-a-kind. We had maintained our vintage and designer clothing websites http://www.backinstyle.com and http://www.stylestud.com online for 10 years before opening a single showroom to offer shoppers a closer look. That being said, you can become more involved in the culture and community of your location with a brick and mortar store. We now host happy hours and fashion shows for lots of charitable organizations.