Well if you haven't noticed by now with my many Instagram posts, Facebook shout outs and Snapchat stories, we have opened up our very own frock and mortar retail store! I'm finally writing about it now only because I've been so crazy busy (not complaining) and now I am finally settling into the groove of this whole "owning/operating a store" thing.
So. Here's the deal. We moved to Phoenix and I noticed there weren't many opportunities to sell. There are AMAZING fleas and markets here, but they are few and far between. Too far between for me to make any money. However, I didn't want to open up a store for a while. I didn't think we would open up a store before August of this year. I wanted to save up some money. I wanted to get everything perfect, to really figure it all out first. But, as fate would have it, this amazing space had a "for lease" sign on it one day and I couldn't not call....
I met the owner of the building. This particular building is over 70 years old, and he met his wife right here while her dad was the dentist around 50 years ago. Yes, this place was a house, a dentist office, retail space, all of it. This building is very special to this man and he didn't want just anyone coming in and leasing it. But, we hit it off and he thought I would be the perfect candidate to come in and join the Melrose District community. This is where I used to go vintage shopping growing up, and if I was going to open a store, it had to be in Melrose.
Then I looked at my finances, and let's be real, it wasn't, like, huge. So I talked with Michael about it, and I said, "I don't think we can really make this work, but I have to do it, so what do you think?" Hahah. Poor guy. He's so supportive, but he also has a level head about things. Naturally, he supported the decision as long as I could make sure we could do it without putting our own finances in debt.
Luckily the landlord wanted us in the store badly over the other candidates that he cut us a deal, at least for the first three months. I won't go into too many details, but we were able to afford the first three months with what Frockify had in the bank, and then we figured that we would need to get to work and make sure we can cover rent after the three months are up. So... We'll see. So far, so good. (And so scary).
The caveat was that we had to take care of any repairs and make sure to put fresh paint on the walls, and so on. To be honest, the store was in such bad shape, that this kind of scared me. Like, the walls were half grayish whiteish, half teal green. The floors had years and years of dust and dirt all over them. The ceiling was literally falling down. The toilet didn't work. The fans worked too well and would just spin without you turning them on. There were no lights where you needed them. Many outlets didn't work. It smelled (what's the word...) old. And so on.
But, hey. This was my store now, so I thought it was perfect. Well, that it was GOING to be perfect. We got to work. I don't even remember what we started with. I'm pretty sure I spent an entire day cleaning, and it was still filthy. Then a bunch of stuff happened; lots of shopping at Home Depot and Michaels, and cleaning, and breaking stuff, adding stuff, and calling the electricity company and plumber, etc. I wasn't eating well, I wasn't drinking enough water, I was getting overwhelmed with the whole process, and ended up in the ER.
I was only at the ER for about 7 hours just getting stuff you won't care to read about and filled with fluids. When I was finally able to go home, I still couldn't walk easily or eat well, or do much of anything. This set us back quite a bit, and I had to stay home and rest for a few days. (Stupid anxiety!)
This whole time my husband, who has a demanding enough job, went to my store after work and helped me out the whole time I was resting. Michael is the best. Finally I had some energy to get out of bed and get back to work. I had my parents come down and help with the landscaping one weekend. I'm not kidding when I say landscaping. There was this huge wall of bug-infested vines and dead twigs and so on growing on the side of the building where people can park. If you got out of your car, you would have to touch all those vines and stuff and it was gross. I had to remove it.
Here's the google street view so you can see what it looked like (pretty, but not practical):
After (cleaned up the front to make it more open and added pretty flowers):
So my mom chopped that all down for me, and helped trim my rose bushes and a few trees. It looks beautiful now. When my dad walked in, he was like, "Don't you want this place to look... nice?" Ha! Yes I do! He is a general contractor, so, lucky me, he got some guys in the store for a day to help us finish up the hardest stuff. Below are some before and after photos, but they really don't do it justice with the amount of work we did. Below the two before and after photos are how it looks now.
What do you think? Did we do ok?? We still have some work to do, but I'll keep you all updated.
We hope you come visit us soon. xox
All the good photos taken by Becca Young Photography
I love estate sales. I go to numerous estates sales every week. It's such a thrill to be able to scour through people's diverse homes and to see what kind of lives they led. Is that creepy? I don't mean it to be...
A normal estate sale day, I get up at 5, get my big Costco reusable bags ready in the car, stop at Copper Star Coffee for the most delicious chai, drive near or far (usually far), listen to NPR or the newest music on Alt Nation, and then usually get to the estate by around 7 am. Some estate sales open at 7, some at 8, but you always want to get there early because there are some SERIOUS estate sale hunters that will get everything before you do. You just have to beat them at their game.
But this is not what happened the day I found my 70's Gucci skirt.
I was off my game. I didn't check local sales all week, and it was already Thursday. So when Michael went to work, I started looking through the sales and found two really good ones. One just had a closet full of "vintage clothing", and the other was a "high end vintage sale", where I knew the Gucci skirt was because there was a photo of it.
So I showered, and got ready, and then decided to head out and go to these sales. Normally if I see a photo of something I really like, I would have jumped all over it and made sure I got it first. But that particular sale looked very expensive, so I decided to not get my hopes high and went to the other estate sale with the closet full of unknowns.
The unknowns were a gold mine. I finally arrived at 10 am and there were a TON of people there, so I didn't think there would be anything left for me. As it turns out, it seemed as though the closet was untouched. I found a 60's Mollie Parnis mini dress, 60's Donald Brooks, great Guess denim, 50's Saks two piece suits, and so much more. I was so happy! I couldn't believe it. Even though that would have been enough to satisfy my day, I decided to go the extra 15 minutes and check out the expensive sale.
When I got there, it wasn't crowded at all, maybe five people. Everything seemed to still be there based on the photos I saw before-hand. So I looked at the skirt, inspected it, and it looked great, but it had a price tag with a big number on it. So, I held onto it and looked at the crazy-expensive furs, and old Chanel, and so on. I found a leather jacket I liked and picked that up too. So I went to the cashier person and asked if he could do better on the price. Immediately he dropped the price $40. So, I gave him an offer lower than that, and he accepted. SCORE NUMBER TWO.
I'm glad I offered an amount. I'm always so nervous to do that, especially with items I know are worth a lot of money. But, we all have to make a dime, and obviously they made their margin since he accepted my offer. What a fabulous and unexpected estate sale day! :)
I totally get Carolann’s affection for clothing. It goes beyond just liking to go shopping, or just liking to look cool. Carolann sees clothing and understands its power to change someone, and its ability to create history. Fashion is history that she wanted to capture and preserve.
Carolann learned how to sew using her grandmother’s pedal machine (which Carolann still has) growing up. She sewed clothes for her Barbies as a kid, and knew how to sew patterns as well. Even when she was a small child, and she received money from her family during holidays, she wouldn’t buy toys with that money, she would buy clothes.
(Carolann with her grandmother)
I can see her reminiscing as we sit on her front steps, her beautiful glowing eyes look off into the distance as she recalls a time that feels so far away. She can remember just hanging out with her friends outside, before a world of cell phones and the internet. Her and her friends would go see Alice Cooper, Yes, J Geils, and Deep Purple at the Coliseum in New Haven. “I just remember the music. The music was really good then. Everything was better then. I miss that.”
She recalled buying her beautiful home 30 years ago in Fairfield, CT. She still lives in the house, and no longer has a mortgage. Her beautiful home is filled with furniture she has found throughout the years and even her kitchen cabinets were acquired from another home. When you head upstairs you find an entire room just packed with vintage clothing and jewelry. It’s a dream room.
It was the early 1980’s when Carolann realized she was a vintage clothing collector. She was always shopping around and even bought things that didn’t fit her, just because she liked the piece. She was working at a phone company in New Haven, CT and there was a Salvation Army close by. She would go into the store on her lunch break and she started buying clothes. She loved the look of the 1940’s and would dress in vintage 40’s tailored suits or military-wear and mix it with her modern clothing while she was working at the phone company.
She had a military pea coat that she loved and recalled that when she wore it one time, an older man came over and told his story of when he was in the Navy. When you wear a piece of history, you get to hear stories, and sometimes you get to learn something you may had never learned otherwise.
She loved browsing the Stormville flea market in NY and can remember when the vendors would just lay out tarps and throw old clothing on there – which would later become sought-after vintage clothing. “Even if it wasn’t in good shape, or if I wasn’t even going to wear it, I just had to have it. Like, I just have to have it.” Carolann and I are also alike in that we both feel a sense of protection when clothes surround you; you’re safe and secure. She also liked collecting oak boxes and occasionally some furniture. Everything she owns was acquired at thrift stores or flea markets. When I asked her if she does that to be sustainable, she said no, but rather it was something she loves doing and something she has to do. When qualifying it, she mentioned, “I can’t spend a lot of money on new things. I feel better when I get a bargain.”
(Carolann in her kitchen)
Every Saturday, she would get up early and head to the Goodwill in New Haven. It became routine and lasted years. Goodwill stores in those days were filled with bins and it was a mess – unlike today, where it’s more comparable to a department store. “There were a group of women that went every Saturday, and it was a competition to get the most clothes,” she recalled. “I would leave Goodwill every week with bags just full of clothes.”
But it wasn’t just “clothes”. She wanted to find things that no one else wanted. “I was always an individual, I never wanted to be like anyone else.” These women weren’t necessarily friends of hers, but they would all meet up every week – and if they saw something strange or something they wouldn’t take, they would pass it over to Carolann. This is how she acquired some of her most unique pieces.
In the year 2000 she opened up her own store in Shelton, CT. It was called The Clothing Outlet, but she called it a “little TJ Maxx”. Everyone was into the brand names like Gap at that time and she would hold their inventory for cheaper. She did very well the first year, but after September 11th, business slowed down. She regrouped and her business would go through normal ebb and flow. She would sell a few pieces from her vintage clothes in her store, but she still wasn’t ready to part with her collection just yet. She finally closed her shop in 2012.
(Carolann trying on shoes in a shoe store in NYC in the early '90's)
Her brother always encouraged her and her clothing collection and said, “Someday you’re going to use this to pay your bills.” And it’s true. I wasn’t the first to come and buy a bunch of her vintage gold. She had vendors and costume designers from Manhattan Vintage Show come by and pick out some goodies. When her store closed in 2012, her collection was something that helped pay the bills before she got a job. It wasn’t easy getting rid of the clothes she spent years acquiring, but she said it has gotten easier to downsize her collection recently.
I’m so glad that she allowed me into her home and let me sift through all of her clothing that took years of hand picking and hunting. I have been to her house four times and she has become my friend. I call her my “vintage mom” because we are kindred spirits and I see a lot of myself in her. I want Carolann’s story to be known because I need to capture her moment in time and expose why she is important to me. If it wasn’t for her knowing the value of the clothing she was acquiring, those beautiful pieces of history may be in a landfill somewhere. I am forever grateful that she welcomed me into her home and to her beautiful collection.
(Carolann in front of her beautiful home in Fairfield, CT)
See her hometown of Fairfield and a snapshot of her beautiful home:
Vintage clothing is simply more sustainable than new clothing. When you buy something vintage, or second-hand, you are participating in eliminating the need for producing new fabrics manufactured with oil-based petroleum, eliminating the use of water for farming cotton or dying fabric, and eliminating the need to get new leather, suede, and fur from animals.
I had to act quickly because I knew the money I had saved up wouldn’t last forever. I called my parents to discuss the possibility of me trying to start my own business. They’re the most supportive parents in the world, so of course they encouraged me. They knew about “Dakota Jeane” back in West Hollywood, and thought it was a great idea to pursue Frockify.
I had to start somewhere, so I began browsing vintage stores online and gaining knowledge on their pricing, how they were presenting their product, and to what type of audience they were trying to attract. I took notes on all of these things and what I would do differently. I wanted to take what I learned working in the contemporary fashion world and combine that with my love for vintage clothing. The vision was in my head, but I knew before I could start, I would need to put together a business plan to see if this was even a viable business for me to pursue as my career.
I googled “how to write a business plan” and proceeded to write down each step, filling in the blanks and figuring out what I would need to do. I came up with the amount that I would to start my business the right way and came up with a percentage of my business that I would give up for the investment. I had watched enough “Shark Tank” to feel like I knew what I was doing…
I finished my business plan and was very proud of what I came up with. I was sure I had everything covered. I emailed it to my parents and asked them to invest in me, and in return they would own part of my business. I wasn’t sure if they would do this, but I figured they were probably the ONLY people in the world that would ever invest in my idea at that time, before I had any sales. I was 100% sure that a bank wouldn’t even be interested in considering me for a loan. So, I gave it a shot. After all, they always encouraged me to reach for the stars.
After a long discussion of my goals and a review of my business plan, my parents accepted and agreed to give me the investment I asked for, but my dad said he would only do it if I raised the percentage that he would own. Geez dad… 😊 Then they asked if the amount I was requesting was high enough. I told them with confidence that it was certainly enough. When writing my business plan, I accounted for everything I could possibly think of to be successful. Also, I hadn’t asked my parents for money in a really long time, so I felt a little weird - even though this was a business transaction and not a personal one.
I headed to Phoenix a few weeks later to relax and finalize business maters with my parents (it worked out because Michael had a work trip that same week). We finished the paperwork and they gave me a portion of the investment by check. I felt so excited. It was all starting! I decided that I didn’t want to relax and vacation. I wanted to get to work! So I took a bit of my investment and headed to a few thrift stores nearby. I ended up finding a few things I really liked and put a visual story together. I merchandised all the time in my previous jobs; I thought why not merchandise what I was buying now? It was then when I realized I wanted to curate my buys instead of just buying randomly. This has become one of the most important parts of Frockify. It is one thing that sets us apart from many other vintage companies.
After a successful day of buying I thought I should get one of my friends to model for me. I had a camera, I had the website idea in my head, I just needed someone to model the clothes for me. Everyone I could think of was either working or busy, but my friend Courtney put me in touch with another Courtney who had some experience with modeling. I was so excited. I have been behind the scenes of photo shoots before with my jobs; all I needed to do was mimic that. Courtney agreed to do the shoot even though I had never met her. I told her I was going to drive around and see where I wanted to photograph her and then I would get back to her.
I found myself driving around Papago Park, where the zoo is in Phoenix. One word to describe it: gorgeous! The rocks are red and the desert landscape is full of saguaro and cool plants. The shoot needed to be there. However, it was July, and I realized it was HOT. Not good for modeling outside. I didn’t want her to pass out from the heat. So I contacted her and reluctantly asked if she could meet me at Papago Park… at 6 AM. She was a sweetheart and obliged.
I put the clothing in the back seat of my mom’s car, and when I was setting up, I put pillowcases in each window so she could change privately (this is still one of the biggest challenges for us when doing outdoor photo shoots). The entire experience went so well. Courtney was a natural and made the clothes look amazing. It was the first time using my camera, so the photos weren’t the best, but not bad for a beginner.
(The beautiful Courtney Larsen)
Now I needed a website to sell these on. I couldn’t just put these on Etsy – it wasn’t my style. I wanted to create a brand. Something that could really grow into the business that was the first place people would go to when thinking about vintage clothing. I created my website from a template to start off since I had no code skills. Then I created an excel sheet to start keeping track of my inventory, how much I bought the items for and my margin. This sheet would later become my bible. After I had everything in line, I put the photos of clothes up on the site. It was kinda almost ready! Sort of…
(Out on the boat with my parents and their pups, Sparky & Trapper.)
(Everyone loves a good AZ sunset)
Part IV to come next month...
Lucky for me, I get to meet inspiring women randomly and usually through social media. I met Izzy because she is a friend (and theater mates) with one of my models, Mia Longenecker (more on her soon!). They were working together on Salomé with Sacred Circle Theater Company. When Izzy saw that Mia had modeled for us, she reached out to see if we needed another model. We always need more models, and I felt so happy that she was interested!
When I first arrived to her Bed Stuy apartment, I was totally jealous of her living situation. She lives alone; she has the entire gorgeous brownstone bottom half to herself. Her living room was full of guitars and cool vintage furniture and a keyboard. It was serene. She took me up to her room and showed me her large shoe collection so we could start putting some looks together. When she was changing into her first look in the bathroom, I looked up and noticed a HUGE cockroach high up on her bedroom brick wall. I panicked on the inside but kept my cool on the outside. I waited for her to come out and then I said, "So, I don't want to freak you out or anything, but there is a huge cockroach on your wall." She looked up and kind of freaked out the same way I would, so I knew I was in good company. Some people feel like all living things, including scary ass cockroaches, deserve to live (which is amazing, no judgement), but I think that when one of those is near me, I find a way to destroy it.
So she immediately grabbed a book and found something to stand on, then bravely smashed it. We both screamed. Loudly. It was like 10 feet high, so smashing something that high above your head is not only difficult, but totally terrifying (in case it jumps on you). From that moment on, we connected, had some coffee, and was able to have a great and successful photoshoot! In our Q&A series, meet Izzy Baker.
Q&A with Izzy
Hah that's a tough-y. Technically on my own I'm "girl with guitar" (or folk) music...but what I'm most inspired by is classic rock, r&b, funk, hip hop, and the occasional "indie" group with that old sound. Also old pop (think Michael Jackson). I could go on, can you tell?
The kinda things you'd guess - guys who want to "collaborate," and the classic "wow, you're good for a girl!" You definitely have to prove yourself, not only in musicianship but as a woman who's not to be f****d with, and then the boys take you seriously. Maybe this is true for guys too to an extent, but as I'm not one, it feels like it's more true for women.
Ah so tough! Robert Plant's voice singing Jay-Z's lyrics over a poignant, groovin' but also mellow, classic rock song with soul vibes....Does that count?
I don't eat out much, but when I do it's Dough Donuts or Momofuku bagel bombs & cookies if I've been behaving.
Brooklyn botanic is always nice, Rockaway beach, and Trader Joe's - so cheap! I mostly online shop for clothes, and thrift when I visit my parents.
Thank you, likewise ;) I've always been drawn to old everything, from 1800's NYC (think Gangs of New York) to 60's-70's hippie culture, to early bohemian & beatnik culture, and also casual/street wear & menswear of all eras.
Eww I hate that I'm writing this. iPhone.
What is one thing that you want the world to know about Isabelle Baker?
Isabelle Baker wants to know about the world more than she wants the world to know about her. But she does not like people who aren't nice/also trying to know about the world.