Look back at our Grand (re)Opening

I love winter time. I really do. I love the chill outside and cuddling up to get warm. I love when there's a nice snow and everything gets a blanket of crisp white and the whole world looks like perfection. I love the New Year and reflecting upon the last year and making all of your big plans for the next year. For us one of the best memories of 2015 was our Grand (re)Opening in our new building here at 1014 W. Washington Street. 

The day is kind of a blur to me. But I loved that I got to see so many wonderful faces, that people enjoyed the newly renovated space, and that so many people had a positive experience on Bloomington's west side. I also love that Jeannine LaBate was here.

Jeannine, a self-described vintage addict, is in the Theater Arts Graduate Program at Illinois State University and is earning a MFA in Costume Design. As part of a research project about the DIY movement, loss of traditional domestic arts, and this generation's resurgence of self-sustaining hands-on work, Jeannine came to our store on November 28th to observe. Here's an excerpt from her paper:

..."Recent inquiries on the following topic brought me inside a Bloomington, Illinois local vintage and handmade store, Retrofit Culture. Are makers in the DIY, Do-It Yourself movement responding to an age of homemaking, handmade and homegrown? 

Photo: Dana Colcleasure
I have studied the public’s experience at the Grand (re)Opening of Retrofit Culture to take up the question of why vintage, craft and handmade items have so much appeal in the lives of modern-day people. On November 28th considerable amounts gathered, including a notable Bloomington photographer and a sociable actress from Community Players Theatre shopped, browsed and delighted to witness the act of a gentleman from Half Hazard Press (a local print and design studio) screen print t-shirts live on the premises of the store’s Grand (re)Opening. Customers who waited in line ten people deep, partook in friendly conversation with one another, transfixed on the craft of screen printing, and expressed thrill in the personal involvement of choosing their ink color with candid animation in having their customized Retrofit Culture logo t-shirt.

Photo: Kate Browne
The sound of The Beatles and classic Christmas songs could be faintly heard over boosting customers amused by such things around the store as quotes displayed on original prints and hand beaded necklaces dangling next to succulents. 

Necklaces: Handmade by A Thing of Beauty Designs 
An image reminiscent of Dolly Parton with a bouffant hairstyle read, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” The dominant presence in the store is a large vintage canoe hanging on a wall high enough to touch the ceiling. Not that anyone was looking up, most everyone’s attention was captured by an array of objects such as wool knit infinity scarfs and hats, fabric stitched Christmas tree ornaments, delicate necklaces resting in a sea of dry white rice, reworked 1980s denim jackets and jeans, DIY wall art, tapestries and books featuring notable places to visit in Illinois. 

The Lightning Co. by Kristi Koch
Three faux Christmas trees varying in heights anchor the center of the store as a festive reminder of the gift giving holiday. At one point a special delivery came through the front door, a rustic birch log Christmas arrangement with a personalized note inscribed to Tahnee, the store owner congratulating her grand (re)opening. Retrofit Culture newly relocated to 1014 W. Washington Street, which was home to West Side Clothing for 102 years (1910-2012). The railroad used to have a large station just down the street, and West Side Clothing sold clothing and uniforms to railroad workers, and other laborers. For most of the 102 years this small business stood strong, however with the introduction of the franchise, Farm & Fleet nearby and other businesses on the block closing, the owners decided to close the store and auction the building. Tahnee Lee and Matt Lathrop bought the building on August 31st of this year and moved themselves and Retrofit Culture inside. They renovated the entire first floor and started work in their upstairs apartment, with plans to renovate one of the building’s spaces attached to the store in 2016 and the remaining space a few years from now. I wholly admire the Lathrop’s commitment to a lifestyle of craft as a worthwhile means of moneymaking and homemaking, as they regard themselves, “Proudly Midwestern.” 

Tahnee shared what it means to be proudly Midwestern, “I think the biggest part of it is just loving where you live, and seeing the beauty in what is around you. For the Midwest that is not mountains or ocean, but it is beautiful farmland, and lakes, and rivers. I also think that Midwesterners have a general attitude of being hard-working, with good morals, honest, loving and funny. And, of course, of being proud, yet nice and humble at the same time.” The beauty inside Retrofit Culture is the view of a community of people supporting local business owners who are maintaining a retail legacy that uniquely features vintage and handmade items designed to last and hold nostalgia."

Having this write up of the day will always remind me of our Grand (re)Opening: being a little sleep deprived, the way the store looked all ready for Christmas, and the way the community supported us as we opened up our doors of our new location. 

Thank you for everyone who came out that day. And since. My favorite thing I've ever heard about small business came from Kristi Koch--a local, small business owner herself: 

Hoping 2016 leads you to more supporting, encouraging, dreaming, and doing!

~Tahnee Lee

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