Vintage Stores Offering Style and Sustainability
Many people would still prefer to read a paperback rather than an e-reader or capture a touching moment on film rather than on their phone’s camera. Certain things never lose their charm or the experience they give.
Even buying clothes can provide a fun and nostalgic experience for savvy shoppers. While thrift stores are nothing new, the appreciation for vintage clothing is on the rise. For many, thrifting is much more than finding a great deal on clothes. It can be a way to engage in more sustainable consumerism, or to create a signature look that is unlikely to be replicated with the clothes of today.
Tastes in fashion vary from person to person, but there are plenty of options in some of Lynchburg’s newer vintage and thrift stores. Each has its own way of keeping unique styles alive, while also making culturally conscious business choices.
A collaborative project of Freedom 4/24 and Sports Outreach Institute, Mission Thrift is a store dedicated to offering the community an affordable place to shop for many essentials, while also supporting other nonprofits.
“Our goal is to be very collaborative and very community-focused,” Mission Thrift Manager Faith Towles said.
Located on Bedford Ave. in a former Food Lion building, Mission Thrift officially opened January 14, and has seen a consistent crowd ever since.
“We really are seeing the community, as a whole, come in the door,” Towles said.
The building is spacious enough to have several distinct sections for various household items, clothes, and even an entirely different wing of the building dedicated to furniture and large appliances such as refrigerators or ovens.
“We are an avenue for people to not throw away things. It’s amazing what items we get in,” Towles said.
Mission Thrift offers no-charge pickups for anyone wishing to give away furniture or appliances.
Although Mission Thrift offers a variety of products, Towles says that clothing is undoubtedly the biggest seller. Despite the sheer amount of clothing they take in, Mission Thrift still adheres to standards of quality to ensure customers also receive a great product.
According to Towles, if a clothing item is deemed unusable for any reason, it is packed away to be passed along to Mission Thrift’s clothing and textile recycler. The clothes stay out of the landfill and the materials can be given to communities with urgent needs around the world. To date, Mission Thrift has recycled 36,000 pounds of clothing.
Empire Fleet Vintage
With a greater focus on clothing, Empire Fleet Vintage boasts a unique array of styles and time periods on its racks. Owner Lisa Jonas opened the store May 2021, to accommodate her desire to start a business and her love for thrifting.
Part of Jonas’ goal in highlighting vintage clothing is to help combat the waste that “fast fashion” can cause.
“We don’t want to ever look down on people trying to rock their own fashion, but we like to encourage this idea of looking for pieces that are recycled, making it a little more sustainable,” she said.
Aside from the benefits of sustainability, what makes something vintage, as opposed to just secondhand, is the quality that it is made with—quality that is rarely found in modern clothing, according to Jonas.
“Having those time capsules from different periods is also really fun.”
She often gathers pieces for the store that she feels have some unique quality, but still keeps the store stocked with items with broad appeal.
“We do try to keep it curated to a degree that you don’t have to look too hard to find something that suits you,” Jonas explained.
The variety of styles at Empire Fleet is due, in part, to Jonas’ collaboration with other vintage consignors. She finds other people in the community who shop for vintage and offers them an avenue for their respective businesses.
“When they find their treasures, they can resell them here,” she said.
While there is likely some cliché about couples who thrift together, Felix and Megan Guevara of A+ Attire prove there must be something to the success that their teamwork has provided.
Although you’ll sooner find A+ Attire at a community market pop-up rather than a traditional storefront, Megan also works at Empire Fleet Vintage, so some of her finds can be found there. The A+ team does business wherever they can and have made thrifting a part of their lives.
“Most of everything we’ve owned—furniture-wise, housing-wise, clothing-wise—has been thrifted,” Megan said.
Megan and Felix started A+ Attire just under two years ago. The company is named after their daughter Ainsley, whose blood type also happens to be A positive. However, the A+ also refers to the quality they seek in their repurposed clothes.
“We love to reuse and not let a lot of things go to waste,” Felix said.
Fortunately, after such a short time in business, Felix says that A+ found a degree of success early on.
“There’s a good market for it here in town. It’s an emerging market,” Felix said.
A+ likely has the most specialized vintage wear of the previously mentioned vintage stores—they specialize in vintage t-shirts and hats.
Imagining some of your old t-shirts or hats, you may not see the appeal of A+’s inventory at first, however, much like Empire Fleet, they look for items that stand the test of time and have unique qualities.
“We’re repurposing everything. That’s a big part of it, is repurposing,” Megan said.
Much of A+’s business comes from direct communications with the vintage community and their customers, who, at times, have very specific requests. Felix says that if a customer has a request, they “don’t have to put in the legwork.” Felix hunts down the requested item and notifies the customer when they’ve found it.
Megan recalls one of their more unique finds was a red satin jacket used in the 1960s-1970s television series Dark Shadows. “That was probably one of my favorite finds, to this day.”
Both Megan and Felix agree that they love finding something unique that a customer gets excited about. Continued research and discoveries into unique clothes have been a mainstay of A+’s business.
“We know infinitely more than we did a year ago. Our tastes have refined,” Felix said.