From Scratch to Vintage Fortune: How I Watched My Favorite Little Shop Grow
But as consumers, we don’t often see the retro side: evolution. While there are many articles out there that will tell you which store to go to and what, I’m here to tell you a little story about how I saw a small Bay Area business go from selling a few vintage cars to three storefronts, and on and on Pop-ups and 16,000 followers on Instagram.
Three years ago, going to the flea market was my favorite way to spend Saturdays with my friends. While it still is, since I found Indigo Vintage at a Berkeley flea market three years ago, I can’t recapture that feeling of pure success anywhere else.You know what I’m talking about feeling: when you’re out shopping, or just browsing, and you come across a piece of clothing (or an entire store), you’ve just knowledge Will be the perfect staple in your wardrobe. That’s how I feel when I meet Indigo Vintage founder Mel Willis sitting next to her van full of vintage clothing.
I left the flea market booth with a new jacket on my arm and a flyer inviting me to the grand opening of Indigo Vintage’s first real store.
Mel Willis’ original vintage van; photo courtesy of @indigovtg
Now, I’m not going to drag it on for too long or bore you with overly detailed one-by-one playthroughs, but the brilliance this store has gone through is truly amazing. I mean, I remember at that grand opening, I had to wait to try it on because someone was in the bathroom connected to the only dressing room. Now they have three stores and tons of (no bathroom) dressing rooms here, all uniquely designed!
Since Mel opened his first store in Berkeley, I’ve stopped by Indigo about once or twice a month. In the beginning, it was exciting to watch them add more suppliers, design and redesign stores, elevate their style and rapidly expand their customer base. At the time, I felt like I was in the middle of something amazing, some hidden gem of the bay that I helped build (though I definitely didn’t, just bought lots and lots of clothes).
While that initial period made me feel special, sitting in the front seat and watching them take over the rest of the Bay Area made me feel even more special. From the customer’s perspective, the ensuing expansion felt like a fire. Like, “Boom, San Francisco store, boom, Santa Cruz store, boom, pop-up store, boom, start our own flea market.” I feel like I’m rooting for the Warriors in back-to-back championship games, except for this ball The team hasn’t lost yet.
The coolest experience as an OG shopper is the origin of So-So Vintage Market, an event arguably more More popular than Indigo itself, Mel and her team introduced it to the Bay Area retro community just last year. Ringing the bay from parking lots in Berkeley to hotels in San Francisco, this little market brings together local, diverse, high-quality suppliers just like Mel himself used to be. In order to give everyone a taste of the popularity of this small shop, the first time I went to So-So, the line of people lined up for three blocks.
If that’s not enough to blow your mind, some of these names should be. G-Eazy, Halsey and Emma Chamberlain are all Indigo fans, and even Bella Hadid has worn Indigo pieces.These Big Names Supporting Small Retro Businesses May Be should not Surprised me, but it does. Especially when the grand opening still feels like it was yesterday.
Photo of San Francisco store location; photo courtesy of Indigo Vintage.
To wrap up this little story, what I want to say is how incredible it was to watch a small business I love so much achieve so much success.Founder Mel sells vintage pieces from her van as a part-time hobby, successfully owning and operating three stores as well as multiple pop-ups and an overall market! Where does she start!
Always keep their suppliers, shoppers and Bay Area communities at the forefront of their business. They’ve been providing us with high-quality, well-curated (watch their Instagram Stories for proof) work in every store and are continually advocating for small, women’s, BIPOC, and queer-owned businesses in a variety of ways.
“Unconventional, funky and fun – Indigo represents the new wave of retro business” – founder Mel Willis
I’m proud to call myself an OG customer (my friends and family can vouch for this wonderful, not-so-small vintage store). Watching their journey so far has been a blast and I can’t wait to be surprised by what they do next.
// To learn more about Indigo, follow them on Instagram @indigovtg or check out their website: indigovtg.com; Store Locations: 2505 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley; 1649 Haight Street, San Francisco; 1517 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz.Feature photo by Dominic Wong