Nestled in between a record shop and Epoch Coffee house on Austin’s other vintage row, “North Loop” is six-time Austin Chronicle award winner of best vintage: Blue Velvet. Owner, Jennifer Barker-Benfield talks about how she got her start in her Mom’s vintage shop in California and made the move to Austin.
Blue Velvet, Austin TX 217 W. North Loop Blvd. Austin, TX 78751 Hours: M-Sat 11-8 Sunday 11-7 (512) 452-2583 BlueVelvetAustin.com Facebook: Blue Velvet Instagram: BlueVelvetVintage Pinterest: Blue Velvet Vintage Tumblr: Blue Velvet Vintage Austin Twitter: BVvintageRNR: How long have you owned Blue Velvet? BV: We opened Blue Velvet in Austin in 1994, so almost 20 years! RNR: Do you run the shop as the sole proprietor? Or do you have a partnership? BV: My mother Susie and I opened it as a partnership. In the last few years, she has semi-retired, but is kind of a “silent” partner and is involved in buying clothes for the shop, but not the day-to-day running of the business. RNR: When did you first start collecting, selling vintage? BV: I started buying vintage for myself in the mid 1980s, when I was in high school. My mother owned a shop in California before we moved back to Austin that sold vintage, Doc Martens, music t-shirts, etc. and I would help her with the buying. RNR: How did you get your start? BV: We started in a very small shop (100 square feet) upstairs from a local Austin shoe and toy shop called Atomic City. RNR: What’s your favorite thing about the vintage industry? BV: The thrill of the hunt! RNR: What’s your least favorite thing about the vintage industry? BV: Dry spells, when you don’t find as much cool stuff to sell. RNR: Do you pretty much know all the other vintage owners in Austin? BV: Actually, I know very few–I wish I did, though. I think we could use a Vintage Shop Support Group! RNR: How do you find your vintage goods? BV: We have a mix of ways. My mom and I go on buying trips and buy from wholesalers, plus we go to thrift shops and estate sales. But we also have vendors within the store who sell on a consignment basis, and we get a percentage of what they sell, so it’s like a ‘co-op’ of dealers. RNR: Who is the “Blue Velvet” customer? BV: I think the Blue Velvet customer is someone who likes unique, interesting, fashionable clothes but doesn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. We try to keep it cheap and fun for everyone. RNR: Will you ever open another store or move from Austin? BV: We did try to have two stores at one time, both in Austin, but found it was too stressful and decided to focus on just one. I doubt we will ever leave our beloved Austin! RNR: Do you have or are you involved in any city-wide events/galleries/parties/sales? BV: We are involved with our local North Loop Independent Business District events, which include a twice-annual block party/sale. Our neighbors at Breakaway Records co-host a yearly Hot Dog Party/Summer Shing-A-Ling Sale with us, which is coming up Aug. 3. RNR: What do you want your customers to know most about your store? BV: I think we try to make vintage clothing accessible to everyone, by making it as well-organized and reasonably-priced as possible.