Alongside monkey bars and ice cream shops and pens full of puppies, McCall Stover’s tiny vintage clothing shop is a little-girl magnet.
For a minute last Saturday — a bright, beautiful summer day — Stover was surrounded by tiny customers who certainly hadn’t hit their teens yet and probably didn’t have enough pocket change to spend.
But Stover — with orange hair and black glasses — smiled and talked to each of them as their little hands fingered the racks of dresses, and as they placed her custom-made flower wreaths on their heads. And when a girl with long pigtails and plaid shorts hopped out of Stover’s shop — housed in an adorable pistachio-green mini trailer — holding a cream-and-orange dress, a look of excitement spreads across both of their faces.
“Are you getting that?” Stover, 34, asks her. “It’s so cute.”
The girl nods and her dad forks over the money for the dress.
“People get so excited when they see me,” Stover says. “They want to talk about what I’m doing.”
What she is doing is selling vintage and new clothing out of a trailer-turned-shop — one she takes on the road to festivals and street fairs around the region. Stover’s is also the first mobile clothing store in Spokane, a trend that’s swept the vintage fashion world in recent years. Many clothing vendors around the country are choosing the pop-up store route, thumbing their noses at brick-and-mortar shops and expensive rents and instead renovating vintage teardrop trailers and old motorhomes in order to take their business directly to their customers.
It’s an idea that’s proving fruitful: in Seattle, a collective of trailer vendors gather each weekend to form the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall. In Portland, Lodekka peddles “everything a girl needs to put together a smashing outfit” from a double-decker bus parked near a busy shopping district and has gotten attention from the New York Times and the Today show. Trailers are popping up in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Cleveland. And in some cases, like Portland’s Wanderlust, the trailer was the intermediary solution between simply being an online seller and opening a fixed location shop.
Stover sold vintage clothing on Etsy.com for years. “I got really tired of that, but I wanted a store,” she says. After seeing a trailer shop on a trip to the East Coast, she knew it was the perfect solution for her own business. She’d recently purchased a mini trailer — and when she got back home to Spokane, she started gutting it.
When it came time to set up at her first event, she hooked her store up to her dad’s pickup truck. “I’ve had to learn to hitch up and pull and all that,” she says, smiling.
Today, it’s hard to believe there was once space for a bed and a kitchen inside her shop. That’s all been replaced with clothing racks and a tiny fitting room.
“I have no overhead, except gas money,” she says. “And it’s fun for me to do. It’s not like I’m clocking in and out of a job.”
And, she can keep prices reasonable. “I don’t have to mark things up so high, because I don’t have a power bill and a high rent to worry about.”
At festivals and street fairs, Stover just has to worry about doing what she does best: selling beautiful clothes and making even the tiniest of customers happy.
Stover’s 13-year-old daughter comes with her to most events. She’s thinking of going into business for herself. “She wants to build a little lemonade stand and have it off to the side,” Stover says.
They both know those young customers would just love it.
Sideshow: Mobile Fashion • facebook.com/vintagesideshow