In 1995, my 24 year old adventurous self decided she was going to pursue a dream.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”, I said to myself. If it didn’t work, I figured I’d have a kick-ass yard sale and move on. And so, that was the year I opened my vintage clothing shop in State College, Pennsylvania I called – The Rag and Bone.
I found a 1000 square foot basement space for $350 bucks a month (I know – unheard of!) and started working some major magic creating, what I hoped, would become a place of wonder, filled with amazing vintage clothing and unique accessories. Little did I know, what I got out of running this little shop would be worth so much more than all the thousands of items I would put into it over the years.
In no time the place was packed and I was well on my way to learning the functions of the trade – buying, washing, mending, researching, pricing. I also came to find such pleasure in meeting so many wonderful customers, several of which remain good friends to this day. My lessons in customer service came easily for the most part, thanks to all the lovely people who would come through the door and be a joy to help and work with, but there were challenges as well. I learned to value the prickly ones too, as they only made me want to work harder.
Before long, the shop took on its own personality with its own quirky features. Sometimes people would just drop in to hang out. It had a cool vibe that was just nice to settle into. Since it was subterranean, you could step down in and just hide out from the world for a little bit. Usually you’d hear Billie Holiday on the stereo, find me sitting behind the counter mending, maybe spy someone doodling in the suggestion book on the 12 foot long red couch. It was nice to be part of a community, offering up unique finds, providing a little sanctuary.
I was a nut for displays! I found display work to be therapeutic and a fun creative outlet. I loved coming up with themes. I’d spend ridiculous amounts of time on a display, but I really enjoyed the process. When your work feels like play, well that there’s the golden ticket!
So sometimes life throws you a curve ball, but good things can come from times of uncertainty. The same day I found out I lost my lease, I was offered an amazing deal on a great new location. After 11 years in my little basement shop, I emerged to open my new street front spot on a pretty tree lined street next to a yummy Indian restaurant, a hip hair salon, and a Cheese Shop!
After a couple of years, a switch-up on the block with a few of the businesses meant another move – 3 doors down. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and owning a business has its fair share of them. But changes can also give you the opportunity to improve on what you’ve got, try new things, and evolve. At this point in the game, my planning and organizational skills were getting pretty top notch.
Display work continued to be a favorite pastime, and now I had a whole front window! I really took it to the next level (a later post featuring my window displays may be in order).
Never did I think when I first opened that I’d have my shop for 17 years! I was practically planning that kick-ass yard sale before I even had my grand opening. Sometimes things just fit perfectly and you can wear them well for a long time. Up to this point, I had learned more than I could have imagined. And not just about buying and selling vintage clothing. I learned about building relationships, customer service, managing employees (I was so lucky to find really wonderful ones too!). I learned time management, self discipline, and the value of making a living doing something you really love. I was also very grateful to my 24 year old adventurous self who decided to take a risk and pursue a dream. The outcome of which shaped an incredibly rewarding life experience that continues to evolve to this day.
After 17 years of being a brick and mortar shop owner, I decided I needed a change. Life had brought other responsibilities like a house and a child and I felt it was time to shake things up. When I packed up and set up shop at home to sell exclusively online, I also brought with me lots of experience and knowledge that has made for a solid transition.
Once again, a change has become an opportunity to improve and try new things. The Rag and Bone has now become Steele Hollow Vintage, the aesthetic has become a little softer and more refined, and I’m learning to open myself up and create a brand that invites you into a space that’s a little vintage sanctuary, like The Rag and Bone once was.