If you didn’t know it was there, you might never know it was there.
It’s an uncommon store in the Charleston shopping terrain.
A store that doesn’t feature the latest fashions or the latest designers, and yet is incredibly chic.
Owner and founder Lisa Moorer opened Culture Vultures two years ago in the retro-chic Avondale shopping district of West Ashley.
“I always wanted my own store,” she said, resting her hand on the enormous glass countertop beside her, drawing attention to the glittering collection of antique jewelry and hatpins inside.
The 300-square foot space is proof that big things come in small packages.
The cheerful yellow painted walls of the store are packed with exquisite and unique vintage pieces. English furs, cocktail dresses, shoes, hats, purses, and jewelry all make up the store that is Culture Vultures.
“My mother was well known in the Charleston community for her fashion,” recounts Moorer, quickly admitting that she herself was not so much a fashion plate growing up, “I was more of a hippy”.
Moorer’s mother did though engrain in her a strong appreciation for fine clothing, one that’s now translated into an appreciation for vintage clothing.
But it was a bit of a challenge in introducing Charleston to vintage clothing.
Moorer started selling vintage attire Saturday mornings at the Ladson Flea Market ten years ago, “I realized then Charleston just wasn’t ready for vintage clothing.”
But since then, with the pop-culture immergence of vintage into the mainstream fashion Moorer was able to start her own store.
Culture Vultures started two-years ago with Moorer and her husband as an art store with vintage clothing sales on the side.
“We realized the clothes were more popular than the art, and the vintage just kind of took over.”
The store is a never-ending steam of rich and interesting stories, ranging from consigners to the name of the store itself.
Moorer recounts an older consigner who came in with a collection of cocktail dresses, “She said they were from her aunt who lived in Cuba next door to Hemmingway.” The aunt, a woman who lived in a time before it was socially acceptable to have multiple relationships with men, was reported to have been married over twenty times and a frequent patron to cocktail parties with Hemmingway himself.
The name of the store is another story entirely.
Moorer blames it all on a friend, “She came up with the name one night over a pot of tea and I just went with it.”
Since its opening, the store has grown in popularity and recently hired a second part-time employee.
“It’s only my second day,” said Eden Fonvielle a self-described “vintage freak”.
“I met Lisa when I bought this great Star Trek tie for my husband. We hit it off and now I’m here.”
Something that only lends to a lesson Moorer’s learned during her years in the business.
“I have one woman I buy from, I’ll take the clothes to the counter and she’ll pick through them saying ‘that’s ugly’ ‘that’s ugly, too’. I just smile and know that’ll be the stuff that sells the fastest.”
And the glamour behind vintage clothing sales?
“My first job was cleaning the windows,” Fonvielle laughs.
“Proof that selling vintage clothes isn’t so glamorous after all,” Moorer adds.
College students might be wary of the high price of vintage clothing, but Culture Vultures features a rack of goodies all only five dollars.
“I love wearing vintage. I know nobody else will have it,” said Olivia Gossett a freshman at the College of Charleston, “There’s nothing worse than showing up at a party and realizing three girls are wearing the exact same thing as you.”
College students will love the price, and environmentally conscious shoppers will love the fact that it’s environmentally savvy.
“That’s what I always like to remind people,” said Moorer, “Vintage clothing is great for the environment, creative reuse all the way.”
In this trendy southern town, vintage clothing seems to have its benefits and is definitely here to stay.
If You Want More…
Check out Culture Vultures on MySpace
If You Go…
Culture Vultures is on Savannah highway (right across the bridge to W. Ashley if you aren’t a local) in the super eclectic Avondale area. Culture Vultures is on your left if you’re coming out of town. You’ll pass the recently departed Junk ‘n Jive & the big thrift store. Culture Vultures is just past both, parking can be a bit tricky and DON’T park in the big thrift store’s parking lot. Yes, they will actually have you towed.
Happy vintaging lovelies!