Posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2013

By Rhonda Aghamalian
Special to the News-Mirror

The virtues of the second (or third or fourth) time around are the order of the day at Vintage Vibe, where shoppers looking for items retro, shabby-chic or unexpected can almost always find a budget-friendly treasure or two.

As the name suggests, the resale shop specializes in second-hand, vintage or vintage-inspired home décor items, as well as occasional offerings in apparel and jewelry, priced anywhere from $5 to $200.

“People come in looking for old doors, screen shutters, you name it,” said owner Marlene Crist, who opened the shop in September of last year.

“We help them look for that one special item that’s going to make the room pop,” she went on. “It’s not a store where people come in and out quickly because they like to look around and talk awhile. As they see old pieces, they sometimes have a story to tell and that leads to another story. We’ve made a lot of friends among our customers.”

Perpetually “on the hunt” for finds from the past, Crist said she usually acquires items from flea markets, estate sales and thrift stores, as well as from customers who bring her items for consideration.

The shop’s ever-fluctuating inventory includes a little bit of everything: picture frames, lampshades, wall art, linens, painted furniture, travel trunks, mirrors, tea cups and plates. To help inspire her customer’s ideas for out-of-the-ordinary ways to re-purpose a vintage find, Crist arranges many of her wares in vignettes tied together by theme, color or type.

“We also get a lot of great ideas from Pinterest,” she said, referring to the arts-and-crafts-focused social networking site. “We’ve done lampshades with burlap and rosettes, made jewelry holders out of picture frames and taken old fruit jars and topped them with pieces of old jewelry to give them some bling.”

Vintage Vibe also offers customized painting services, performed by Crist’s assistant Katie Wesson, for customers who want to transform a purchase to better suit their creative whims or décor needs.

“I really enjoy the creativity of painting,” Wesson said. “We use and sell Maison Blanche paint, a line that’s very soft and velvety and contains calcium carbonate, which means you don’t have to sand or prime.”

Since opening last fall, the shop has gained a following of more than 500 on Facebook, where customers routinely post inquiries, share ideas or show off purchases.

“The gossip desk (small telephone desk) makes a great entry/side table in my small apartment!” posted a recent customer, who included a photo. “Everyone thinks it’s so unique.”

“I love my chevron striped (V-shaped striped) bench,” ran another recent post, accompanied by a photo. “I use it as a side table because it fits so perfectly in this narrow spot.”

“Here are the shutters I bought from you,” posted another customer. “I re-did them in a pink glaze. What do you think?”

Wesson described this extended relationship with their customers as “the coolest thing, very rewarding.”

“People send us pictures of their items after they go home,” she said. “It’s so fun to see a little girl ecstatic about getting a new desk or chair.”

In fact, the quotient of coziness and nostalgia that comes with running Vintage Vibe makes the job “feel like fun, not like work,” Crist said.

“Being around this stuff reminds you of the things you grew up with,” she said. “Lots of the younger customers talk about how they remember some of this stuff from their grandmother’s house. It brings back memories of family gatherings, of simpler and happy times.”

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