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STYLE: Virginia Avenue goes vintage with four new 'old' shops

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Gabrielle Poshadlo

I’ve always admired vintage clothing store owners for their spunk. They can’t order their merchandise from a wholesale catalog or comb a trade show for items laid out carefully on a folding table. Each poodle brooch, each pair of restored wingtip shoes and each wool swing coat must instead be plucked from estate sales, thrift stores and hoarders’ closets—not with a search engine but with a good ol’ discriminating eye.

What inevitably results is a shop that’s unlike any other. Not only does each have its own truly unique offerings, but each tends to reflect the preferences of its owner, with stock leaning heavily toward, say, ’60s turbans or Bakelite jewelry or old bell bottoms.

So when I stumbled upon news of Harloh’s, a vintage shop opening in Fletcher Place Aug. 1, I couldn’t wait to learn more about its personality. In doing so, I discovered Virginia Avenue is quietly becoming a sort of vintage district, although not by design.
 

owner in her vintage clothing store While stocking Harloh’s, owner Tammy Dyson discovered the building’s original windows needed resealing when it began to rain indoors. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Three other shops, aside from Harloh’s, have opened on Virginia Avenue in Fletcher Place and neighboring Fountain Square in the past year, all independent of one another.

“Like-minded people just tend to gather here,” said Natali McFarling, owner of Venus and Mars Fashion Exchange, which opened three months ago. “They’re people with an appreciation for the history of the area and for history in general. They don’t make things like they used to.”

Tammy Dyson, owner of Harloh’s and lover of old wool coats, plans to capitalize on the happy coincidence once she gets her store off the ground. She’s proposing a brochure featuring the area’s shops for distribution in other established vintage hubs like Dayton, Ohio.

“One store isn’t enough, but I’d make a road trip for four or five,” Dyson said.

Perhaps, but Dyson’s eye for detail should be enough to make Harloh’s a destination for Indianapolis’ vintage shoppers. Many of Dyson’s pieces still have the tags on them, including a Michaele Vollbracht gown originally priced at $1,500. And everything else looks nearly new. A cream Jantzen swimsuit with blue top stitching still bears its embroidered label. A pale pink debutant’s gown looks like it did the day it was worn in 1939, complete with its hooped crinoline.

And the clothing and accessories aren’t everything. The back room will house a salon specializing in vintage hair and makeup.

“If someone wants to walk out of the store looking like Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe, they’ll be able to do that,” Dyson said.

Like the clothes within, the space itself is a study in bygone craftsmanship. The terracotta structure was built in 1925 as the Virginia Avenue State Bank, only to close eight years later during the Great Depression.

“The history is a big reason I chose this building,” Dyson said. “I want to be a part of bringing this neighborhood back to life.”

With a facade grant secured by Southeast Neighborhood Development, Dyson plans to reseal some 400 window panes and restore the rusted bank signs.

Until Dyson gets her brochure together, I’ve composed a temporary version below, listed in walking order from downtown. It takes only one afternoon to do them all—which I happily did recently.

• Harloh’s (630 Virginia Ave.) is scheduled to open Aug. 1.

• Voodoo Vintage (634 Virginia Ave., 529-6428) has been open for one month. Here, the mishmash merchandise and haphazard organization make shopping a little like going through someone’s garage, in a charming way. It makes sense, because owners Joshua and Kimberly Long opened the store as a way to “get rid of all their junk.” Specialties include restored tube radios and hot rod fixtures.

• Venus & Mars Fashion Exchange (1022 Virginia Ave., 822-8255) has been open three months. In order to be fashion-forward, owner Natali McFarling thinks it’s necessary to also be inspired by the past. That’s why she stocks new, pre-owned and vintage clothing for men and women. Specialties include costume jewelry and handbags.

• IndySwank (1033 Virginia Ave., Suite 4, 632-6440) is so well-organized nothing really looks old, but that’s the way owner Jennifer Von Deylen likes it. Her shop may be sparkling clean, but she’s not afraid to get down and dirty to find what’s hot. “The skinny ties are so popular now, you really have to dig to the bottom at Goodwill to find them,” she said. Specialties include pillbox hats and ’50s party dresses.•

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If you’d like to share your own style ideas or know anyone who’s making waves in the fashion community, contact Gabrielle at gposhadlo@ibj.com. This column appears monthly.

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  • hats and ties
    I often go see tammy to see what hats she has vintage i shopped this past summer and received a dobbs brown hat still in orignal box 1950 wow what a hit,on my way home form work she the uniform and know its me often check to make sure there okay.look forward to her new opening soon in a bigger location i hope. see you then,,,,
  • Vintage
    I found the best Vintage Clothing Stores! The most beautiful and sleek outfits I’ve ever seen!
  • comment Voodoo
    Looks like damage control central at VooDoo Vintage. What a bunch of contrived crap!
    Just try catching them open. Their hours are between "never" and "when hell freezes over".
    You can look through the window, though (at all the stuff nobody wants).
  • Voodooooo
    Checked out voodoo vintage today, cool place, total thumbs up. I was hoping that Indy would get a kustom kulture type store and these guys are well on their way. They know their stuff and are cool kids, drive hot rods and understand the quality of the era's they sell.
  • Days Gone By
    I was sorry to miss Gabrielle when she visited the vintage stores in Fountain Square. I own Days Gone By, 1028 Virginia Ave, on the same block as Venus & Mars Fashion Exchange. We have vintage furniture, housewares, vintage glass and collectibles and a room set aside with vintage clothing. Something for everyone in a friendly atmosphere!
  • Voodoo Vintage
    Voodoo Vintage has the coolest stuff in town! Great store, and even greater people. Josh and Kimberly are the real deal and the store is worth a drive to check out! Other than hot rod stuff and tube radios they have lots of local art and other really cool stuff to check out
  • "voodoo vintage"
    I went to the store Voodoo Vintage and they had a lot of variety in there shop. More than just hot rod fixtures and restored tube radios! There was many many collectible items and the owners were very generous with there items. It was very reasonable prices. So i highly disagree with your paragraph about Voodoo Vintage.
  • VOODOO VINTAGE
    I love going to VOODOO VINTAGE it doesn't have the "upscale" or "posh" feel that some stores have. It feels vintage by the products,the store,& MOST importantly the people. Josh & Kim are laid back cool people that take pride in what they sell,not just another knick-knack to get your money.
  • Vintage Shops
    I was told about this article and was asked to check it out. I recently moved to Indianapolis and have wandered down through Fountain Square and also Fletcher Place. I've stopped in at Indy Swank and admire all the unique items and art. I also took a stroll down to VooDoo Vintage which I found to be more of my liking as far as vintage shopping goes, mostly because they carry such a variety of items. I liked the easy going feeling I felt when browsing through their goodies. It really reminded me what I would picture an old school thift shop to be. I then went next door and peaked in the windows at Harlows. I cannot wait for it to be open. Next week I will venture back down town and hit the other shops mentioned in this ad.
  • Voodoo Vintage
    Thanks for the mention, Gabrielle! Our junk is definatly good junk. :) We've got tons of kitsch, retro and fun stuff. Vintage clothing, barware, hand bags, Hot rod accessories, bicycles, local art, jewelry, hats, furniture and Brand New Rat Fink and other Hot Rod tshirts.

    Check us out at

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Indianapolis-IN/VooDoo-Vintage/125605807478397

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