More and more I am seeing brilliant collaborative spaces in retail (ie. vintage shop + cafe + bookstore, etc). The little hidden gem of a collective resides in an old cottage in Austin’s East Side. It’s home to Charm School Vintage, Salon d’Etoile and Coco Coquette wig boutique. You would never guess that only two years ago, this Colorado cutie knew little about vintage. Not only is she adorable in a stylish outfit of cowboy boots, a mini ruffled polka dot skirt and matching bloomers poking out from underneath, but her shop is well-merchandised and adorable with old vintage 60s wall paper peeling off the ceilings. You can also see owner Shari Gertsenberger’s art direction and styling work on album covers and in several editorial publications. We take a seat on her classic Austin front porch swing and talk retail etiquette.
RNR: Your shop is one of the new vintage stores in Austin. How new?
CSV: My store’s been around for about two and a half years. This part of town has changed a lot in that amount of time.
RNR: Tell me about your history as a vintage seller in Austin?
CSV: I moved here in about 2007 from Colorado Springs. I went to college there and I loved my college, it’s like what Austin is to Texas, very cool.
RNR: What were you studying?
CSV: Comparative literature, and French. I was a journalist and I edited a magazine all four years. Yeah, so that was my plan was to move to New York and work for a publishing house or a magazine. So, I went and made a trip and visited all of my favorite editors and had a bunch of good meetings and just felt like everyone up there was really unhappy, and the future of print/media was not looking very bright. It just didn’t feel right. So, I helped one of my best friends move down to Austin and was here for only 24 hours and it seemed so cool. She was like “Stay with me for the summer” and I was like “Ok” and then, I stayed. I think that happens to a lot of people in Austin, it kinda sucks you in. (Shari gets shy that this doesn’t make for a good story, I disagree, American dream happening here!) So, the first place I walked into was Buffalo Exchange, I got a job, I learned about clothes. I didn’t really know what vintage was. I’ve never lived in a place where there was a community of people who recognized and appreciated vintage. Next I became a buyer for Hogwild (another vintage store in Austin) and I was buying furniture and mens and womens clothing and that’s when I realized I really loved the clothes aspect of it. So, that summer I was trying to figure out what I was going to do…was I going to stay? Then I heard a friend of a friend was opening a vintage store on the East Side and she was looking for someone to be a vendor for her and I was really into the space and the idea behind it.
RNR: How long were you a part of…?
CSV: “Ester Bangs”. The store was only existed for six months and then the owner asked me if I wanted to take it over and I really wanted to but, I didn’t have any savings, inventory or fixtures but, I thought I could do it. That was in 2010.
RNR: How did you get involved with the hair salon?
CSV: The collective already existed and I just took over this space.
RNR: What is the next step in your endeavours? Will you ever have a full store elsewhere without the collective?
CSV: We’re partners in this space because it strengthens both of our businesses, with the cross over of customers and all. And the salon is the space that we use when we have our parties and art openings or if I’m hosting a trunk show or pop up shop. I want people to want to come over here not because it’s cool but, because it feels good. I want to ensure there’s an authenticity, warmth and general connection of people. That’s really important to me.
GUESS WHAT ELSE?
I just discovered that Shari and her shop have an indie gogo campaign going on RIGHT NOW to help do some upgrades to the shop. Check out the link and help her out, the rewards are cool too! <iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/69120351?title=0&byline=0&color=ffffff” width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen>