If you told East 8th Vintage owner Amanda Fore in January 2021 that by year’s end she would own a vintage store, she would have said you were out of your mind.
“Actually, I would say you were lying!” she exclaimed.
And yet, with no such plans in sight when the year began, she found herself opening East 8th Vintage in the Elizabeth neighborhood in April. Billed as “Charlotte’s newest old soul shopping experience,” the small boutique specializes in vintage, consignment and thrifted goods. In the months since, East 8th has built quite a name for itself – even earning a nod in Queen City Nerve’s Best in the Nest 2021.
Since opening in April, Fore and her store manager Stephanie Wilson have worked to integrate East 8th into the Elizabeth community and Charlotte as a whole, collaborating with fellow thrifters and vintage vendors rather than trying to compete with them.
In recent months, East 8th Vintage has hosted two free street festivals on their block. The first one, which took place in June, featured 15 vendors selling jewelry, pottery and a range of vintage items.
Prior to the festival, Fore had met Reuben and Kathleen Bloom, who worked with Charlotte’s Mutual Aid Free Store, when they came to check out the shop. The three of them collaborated on a clothing swap benefiting the Mutual Aid Free Store’s work to support Charlotteans struggling with homelessness at the June festival.
“When I got this store, my vision was not just a retail shop, but a place to do community events and come together,” Fore said. “I want [East 8th Vintage] to be a vessel to accommodate that, like a pot to throw all the ingredients in. Just, let’s see what we can cook up.”
The next festival took place in October and featured 20 vendors. Fore is hoping to organize another in early 2022. In fact, she’s hoping to do a lot of things in the new year.
Looking forward, Fore told Queen City Nerve, “2022 will definitely be the year of events, the year of art shows, the year of street festivals – just all the big stuff we want to plan for next year.”
But for now, she’s content to keep the doors open.
“Our goals are just, keep doing things, keep the lights on, keep selling stuff at the same prices we always have. Maybe get to 2,000 [Instagram] followers? That would be cool.”
A surprise opportunity
According to Fore, the opportunity to open East 8th Vintage more or less fell into her lap. In early 2021, her then boyfriend was looking for a new place to use as a welding studio. It turned out they didn’t have to look very far.
“I live a block away [from the store], actually,” Fore said. “I was driving by one day, and there was a for lease sign in the window. So I called, and I was like, ‘There’s no way I could afford this, right?’ But it turned out the two of us together could.”
The two split the rent for the shop, located on East 8th Street near Pecan Avenue, and reserved half of it for his welding studio. The other half was available for Fore to use, but what would that use be?
Fore, who previously had run a successful Etsy shop selling vintage clothing and goods online, decided she’d use the other half of the space as a boutique. Thus, East 8th Vintage was born.
After signing the lease in early February, she spent the following two months scrambling to create a good inventory.
“I was pulling things out of my basement, pulling things out of my closet, just going anywhere I could find stuff,” she said. “I was going to flea markets, estate sales — like I’m not even gonna lie to you, I was going to regular thrift stores, too!”
Fore aimed to create a place to find unique yet inexpensive things.
“Vintage clothes are amazing. Unfortunately, unless you’re really in there going to thrift stores, going to yard sales all the time, it’s not super accessible, just because of the price point.”
From her beginnings selling clothing and accessories at a pop-up shop in Plaza Midwood, Fore always focused on keeping prices affordable. “I don’t see any reason to do a huge markup… [Lower prices] keep the customers happy, keeps them coming back, makes them feel like they found something truly unique.”
The shop opened on April 3 with little fanfare. Fore had not done any marketing or advertising, just posting vague hints on an Instagram page she had been using since 2019. In time, vintage aficionados and curious neighbors trickled in, the word spread about the new store on the block.
Bringing on help
As her customer base swelled, Fore realized she needed some extra help. A few months after opening, she met Stephanie Wilson, who had organized a yard sale that Fore checked out. Wilson shared Fore’s fascination with vintage clothing and goods.
Wilson grew up collecting old vinyl records with her parents, and when she went on to study textiles and apparel in college, she was especially drawn to vintage aesthetics. By the end of their conversation, Fore had heard enough. She suggested Wilson join her at East 8th Vintage. Wilson stopped by soon thereafter, and before long she was the store manager.
One of the team’s biggest challenges from this past year has been exposure. East 8th Vintage is tucked away on a mostly residential street, and while popular shops like Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and Starbucks are nearby, both face out to busier streets than East 8th.
It’s far from the foot traffic in more popular corridors like Central Avenue or North Davidson Street.
To this day, East 8th Vintage has not done any advertising – shoppers have found them solely through word of mouth and social media.
“Luckily, the people that do walk through our doors come back once or twice a week, because they know we get new things every single day,” Wilson said. “And most people will spread the word.”
East 8th’s devoted customer base is one of the main reasons Wilson loves working there.
“Everyone leaves with something that they didn’t really expect to find,” she said, “And they can’t wait to go show their friends and family.”
“If I went to Central Avenue, I would have not gotten the reception I’ve gotten from my neighbors,” Fore added. “They’ve all been so welcoming and so excited to have life in the neighborhood again … It’s kind of a slow little sleepy street, and then we come in and shake it up. The locals have really, really appreciated it.”