I wandered into Vintagesoulgeek at 279 King Street East, drawn by the Deco sign and belated-birthday-gift-for-relative guilt. Little did I know this would be love at first sight, then delight after delight. This new vintage shop, built on four years of street-selling items that would make any collector sing, perfectly encapsulates all there is to love about Hamilton circa 2015, where the past informs the future.
Hamilton’s richly historical nature is attested to by its landmarks and properties - even new ones like the condos being carefully constructed nearby within stately Victorian, 1920s and 1950s edifices . Vintagesoulgeek is located in the heart of Hamilton’s International Village at historic Ferguson Station, where the Business Improvement Association is active in supporting unique and forward-thinking local entrepreneurs, hosting everything from Victorian Village events to bazaars.
The clothing and accessories here are authentic, distinctive, and in many cases rare examples of a colourful past. In fact, as I walked into a store packed with excited browsers ranging from seniors to Macmaster students on early spring shopping sprees, I despaired of being able to afford the first item to catch my eye, a gorgeously crafted, mint-condition Flower Drum Song-era silk cheongsam. As it happened, at $85 it would have been a steal had it not been two sizes too small for the relative I had in mind!
For half that price, though, I walked away with two perfectly preserved enamel brooches - a schooner and a cameo - and an exquisitely matched rose scarf clip and earring set. There were stamped vintage Wedgewood earrings for $42, men’s Deco horseshoe cufflinks for $26, a like-new 80s Betsey Johnson pink lace dress for just over $130, a mint 60s gold mesh purse for $42, one-of-a-kind jewelry sets over $500, with many small but no less distinctive items only $10-15. Something for everyone, and run by a staff whose enthusiasm and verve is so infectious it’s no surprise to hear sales have exceeded their wildest imaginings in a few short days.
As the co-owner on duty, friendly and energetic Nikola Bulajic, cheerfully explained - while ringing in an another purchase, recording it in a log and dispatching a friend to fetch an item from the window - he and his wife Connie want people to be able to buy their wares. Connie has been collecting since childhood and “she has a great eye. Actually, she has two.” Pricing items they love affordably ensures tthey will be seen again in the modern world, revived. Their strategy includes the website www.vintagesoulgeek.com, an etsy.com account for online purchasing, and most importantly, embracing the area (they advertise neighbouring businesses, like newly opened vintage guitar store Tundra, as enthusiastically as their own on their Facebook page). So far, their labour of love is looking like great business.
Bringing the past into the present with fresh vigour is about as Hamiltonian as a business strategy gets these days. Down to earth, but unafraid to be unique, engaging the neighbourhood and keeping it real by catering to the upwardly mobile and budget conscious alike, Vintagesoulgeek is a perfect example of ambitious young entrepreneurs building bridges and making their antiques part of Hamilton’s future.
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