On the corner of West Hickory and Fry sits a clothing rack outside Aura Coffee. A handwritten sign is labeled “$ sale rack $” with vintage pieces on hangers. Unique garments are ready to be bagged and bought, creating an enticing welcome for vintage fashion lovers.
“A lot of people [don’t realize] how overabundant clothing is,” Rebecca Woods, Old Bear Vintage co-owner and systems manager, said. “There’s too much of it on the second-hand market. There’s too much of it on the first-hand market.”
Woods, along with her partner and co-owner Becca Burns, founded Old Bear Vintage in 2017 in Los Angeles after they started digging through yard sales for sustainable, vintage finds. The two were unenthused by the idea of working a traditional job for the rest of their lives and later retired from the corporate world.
Old Bear Vintage’s iconic bear head sits on their sign on Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Lauren Campbell
“With COVID, more people were shopping online, so we kind of realized that this could be a real long-term job,” Burns said. “There were a lot more people out there that wanted to buy vintage, so we kind of were like ‘we want to do this on a more local scale.’”
Old Bear began as a mostly online store where customers could browse for vintage statement pieces. Woods and Burns moved to Texas and put down business roots in Fort Worth, where their first pop-up is open seven days a week.
“So [in] June of 2021, COVID was maybe not officially over but a lot of things were opening up again,” Woods said. “So, we decided to try our hand at selling vintage clothing in person.”
Old Bear set up shop in its rented space outside of Aura almost a year ago and strives to make a positive impact on the local community.
“We want our relationship with Aura to be positive and good at all times,” Woods said. “We want to make sure that our presence here only helps and doesn’t detract in any way. We want it to all be community-based.”
As fashion trends repeat, it creates a demand in the vintage market thrifting cannot fill. Thrift stores are almost all 100 percent donation based, while vintage stores buy their products from estate sales, bin sales and clothing recycling plants.
“Yeah, we’ll get say 100 shirts from a rag house or a supplier or […] from a bulk place,” Woods said. “I’ll basically sit there and we’ll go over every single one.”
Different selections of sweaters, jeans and more sit on racks at Old Bear Vintage on Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Lauren Campbell
The process includes shaving sweaters to remove lint fuzz and mending holes.
“We don’t want people to think that we’re just buying from thrift stores and reselling, ” Burns said. “We just want people to know that is not our business model. We’re just trying to save clothes on the end of the line.”
Old Bear Vintage buys all of their clothes, taking weeks of time to get the pieces into wearable and lovable condition.
“I used to come here twice a week — I would come after class and, yeah, they had a run for my money,” Old Bear customer and English senior Aleah Berroa said. “I was paying for clothes more than I was paying for food [at Aura].”
Berroa said these types of vintage clothes are worth the investment, as everything from Old Bear will last a long time. Woods said she and Burns think their customer base is great and are both very thankful to be here in Denton, where they hope to stay as long as they can.
“I think an unappreciated art is the ability to put an outfit together,” Woods said. “That’s awesome and I think so many of these kids are just true artists with the ability to do that.”
Featured Image: Selena Pacheco browses the sweater rack at Old Bear Vintage on Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Lauren Campbell