Vintage vendors share tricks of the trade

Ruben Paquian

Austin’s vintage vendors spend hours collecting rare treasures from estate sales and auctions, pinching pennies to make any cash they can. In the minds of vendors, the rare treasures they collect from estate sales and auctions are worth every cent.

Bill Goodpasture has been a vendor for Room Service, a vintage store on North Loop, since 1999. He said he and the other eight full-time vendors at Room Service spend most of their time on the hunt for interesting clothes and knickknacks. Goodpasture said vintage knickknacks are not only a defining part of his life, but they’re also a characteristic part of Austin itself. 

“Austin in general is a real vintage town,” Goodpasture said. “There has always been a vintage vibe.”

Because of the popularity of vintage stores in Austin, the demand for unique, old clothes is through the roof. To satisfy the demand for quality vintage goods, Goodpasture said vendors often go to great lengths to be competitive in the growing market. Goodpasture said he and his wife often fly all the way up to northern states such as Iowa and Minnesota, where the vintage craze hasn’t hit yet, rent a truck and fill it with loot on their way back down to Texas.

“They have an older population in the areas we shop,” Goodpasture said. “They don’t think of it as precious like we do.” 

During their travels, the Goodpastures come across hundreds of vintage goods. In order to find pieces that will most likely double their money, Goodpasture said they only buy if it’s really cheap or really good.

“You’re going out and you like something, and then you’re paying this price, and you’re hoping that someone will love it just as much as you do — but for twice the price,” Goodpasture said.

Vintage vendors said the higher price of some articles of clothing can be justified by the rarity of the item. Nikita Kotlyarov, a 19-year-old employee at Guadalupe Street’s I Love Vintage, said the company’s 40 vendors are constantly searching for clothes that have withstood the test of time and changing trends.

“People are purposefully going out there and finding the good stuff,” Kotlyarov said. “You can really feel some of these items.”

Most vendors put the exact year the clothes were worn on the tag, with some dating as far back as the ’60s and ’70s. Kotlyarov said some of the clothes in the store could almost be considered historical artifacts.

“We’ve got some T-shirts over there that are over a hundred dollars apiece just because they are from bands and concerts that will never happen again,” Kotlyarov said.

Juan Hernandez, a 24-year-old vendor at Monkies Vintage, has been involved with the trade for about six years. He said shopping vintage is the best way to be ahead of the latest trends, and even designer brands are influenced by the past. 

“You look at streetwear brands, they all look toward vintage for inspiration,” Hernandez said.

Monkies’ attentiveness to the latest trends has made it a big name among vintage stores here in Austin, allowing the shop to sell to other vendors themselves. To gauge what will sell best, Hernandez said vendors at Monkies look at what styles are trending in Asian countries, specifically Japan.

“We sell to Japanese clients at times, and they let us know what they’re looking for,” Hernandez said.

Each vintage dealer does things a little differently when it comes to how they find their products and price them, but they all have one thing in common — a passion for finding stylish, used threads.