I eat, sleep, and breathe vintage life. Vintage is my passion and, thankfully, it is also my job. Seeing the look of excitement when someone finds that final piece for their collection or they stumble upon an item they remember from their childhood makes me giddy. For me, vintage is not only about the monetary value, but also the value it brings to our lives. Vintage is something to respect and fuse into our modern lives. Looking to the past to enrich our present—and, if treated lovingly, our future.
Belle Starr Antique Mall opened for business in 2010. Nearly eight years later, I still do not believe I’m lucky enough to work here. It’s such a blast. Last year, Belle Starr made a big move and expanded, staking her claim in downtown Fort Smith. I took a risk and purchased a small slice of land and an old factory at 410 North B. The risk has paid off; Belle Starr now houses over ninety vendors and allows me to offer office space to Fort Smith’s very own publishing company, Tipsy Mockingbird Books.
In the eight years I’ve been open, I have been fortunate enough to see a wide variety of antique and vintage items come through our doors. I love hearing the stories behind the items, collecting knowledge and anecdotes along the way.
Quality vintage is getting harder and harder to find, becoming more and more obsolete. The products were made to last. Made from better materials, sometimes by hand. They weren’t created to be disposable. There is a shared sense of nostalgia with vintage items. We all have memories tied to eras and the style those eras represent to us. I cannot tell you how many times a day I hear, “My grandma had one of these.” If you’re drawn to something, whether it reminds you of your childhood or just calls to you in some way, buy it.
Perusing the aisles of big box department stores, you can see nods to Mid Century everywhere. Mid Century, one of my personal favorites, is known for beautiful clean lines, fitting in seamlessly with modern, minimalist style. While I love the influence Mid Century is having on today’s designs, it breaks my heart a little to see these items mass produced at triple the price and a fraction of the quality. If you want to get into vintage, and you should, shopping local is the way to do it. With a little searching, you can find quality items that were produced in the 1950s, made of solid wood and built to last.
Most people, when they hear the word vintage, automatically think expensive. But, that isn’t necessarily the case. Shopping vintage offers a unique selection, allowing shoppers to add vintage elements to meld with their modern lifestyle as they come across them. It’s incredible the deals you can find and often negotiate. Something you certainly can’t do at a department store.
Kristi Jones, owner and operator of Arkie Vintage Boutique, weighed in on the subject. Both her booth at Belle Starr and her Etsy store specialize in beautiful vintage clothing. She has a knack for seamlessly introducing vintage pieces to the modern wardrobe, marrying the old and the new.
“Vintage is modern. For me, I challenge myself, I walk into a department store and say ’I love this print’ or ‘this silhouette is beautiful, but I know I can find her vintage version.’ And, after some treasure hunting, I eventually do. And I bring her to my 1940s home and give her TLC so she may create more chapters in her story. I fill my shop with pieces that blend, that work with a modern wardrobe. And the beauty is, these garments were made to stand the test of time. These items have lived. Their beauty, their stories they never fade. They are relevant.”
I practice what I preach. My home, built in 1947, has such a unique charm, uneven cabinets and all. My store is housed in an old factory. Built in the 1960s, it is the perfect location for our vintage mall with ample opportunity for future growth. Investing in something that existed and sat, seemingly forgotten, has allowed business to flourish and bring joy and nostalgia to a lot of people.
When you shop for items in a vintage store, you are giving yourself the opportunity to piece together your own one-of-a-kind vibe, a charm you create for yourself. The pieces in my home range from my favorite eras in style, 1920s-1960s, an eclectic cohesion of Art Deco to Mid Century Modern that works well together because they all reflect my passions. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns, eras, or styles. You are what really ties the whole room together. Though, you can never go wrong with a well-placed rug.