As pop culture moves on and on, it leaves in its wake vast eras of style, including design, music, fashion, and just plain ol' stuff that nowadays people are appreciating more than new things. They research them on the Internet, bid for items on eBay (where this writer just won a boxed Blip digital game from 1979, by the way), browse Goodwill, and even shop in stores specifically selling items from the past.
Verona happens to have its own time machine in the form of Vintage Alley. Located at 730 Bloomfield Avenue, for the past 4 years owner Colleen Connell has been selling the best of the past history of women's wear, and much more.
What Year is This?
It's a big place - actually two. A recent development at Vintage Alley has been a spin-off of sorts. A consignment shop -- called Next Door -- is in a second room. "My friend Ann Moresco runs that," Colleen says. "She is available by appointment."
Taken as a whole, the store can be a bit overwhelming to a first timer. It's an explosion of color from a retro palette. Women's wear is center stage. Dresses, gowns, outerwear, handbags, jewelry, and shoes from decades prior are all on tap - and in good condition at great prices.
Then, there's the other stuff; housewares are a big vintage item, and there's no shortage here. A lot of it is displayed on formica tables. There's knick-knacks of all kinds. It's all different, yet has a common element: whereas today form follows function, in the '70s and earlier, form followed fun. Occasionally, that M.O. might have made for tough travel.
The '70s Suitcase Workout
There a nice selection of vintage luggage. One piece catches my eye - a gold-ish yellow (the color of Mrs. Brady's hair on the Brady Bunch) American Tourister number. It's the same model my parents had (theirs was blue), and has those cool buckles on it.
It has no zippers, no wheels, and no pull-out handle. Empty, it weighs ten pounds. It makes one wonder if people lifted weights before going on vacation in the old days. I want to buy the thing and find out.
Colleen is low-key and cool, that's not to say she's not interesting. In fact, once she gets going, she can be quite animated and quirky - the personification of Vintage Alley.
After a mini-rush of customers in the store and on the phone, I asked her some questions of a decidedly new vintage.
Verona-Cedar Grove Patch: Tell us a little about yourself - where are you from?
Colleen Connell: I grew up in Verona - my husband did, too.
VCGP: How did you decide develop you mr interest in vintage, and eventually open up shop in Verona?
CC: I actually had a vintage shop years ago, in Morristown. But before that, after I graduated college with a business degree, I took some classes at Parsons School of Design in the city. One thing led to another.
VCGP: What era are you into?
CC: I like 1980s and earlier (for the store). Personally, the '60s.
VCGP: What's popular in women's vintage right now?
CC: The '60s - Mad Men has been good for us. The clothes are by far the things that sell the most here.
VCGP: How do you actually stock your store?
CC: (laughs) By people walking through the door - I hardly have to leave the store! Basically, I'll take some '80s stuff, but will buy from mostly from the '70s backward. Occasionally, I'll go to house sales.
VCGP: Describe the average Vintage Alley customer.
CC: There's such an array of people. You would think it would only be young artsy women or something, but that's not really true. We get young people, old people. Actors looking for costumes. People looking to resell stuff in the city. Today, there was a 65-year old woman in here - she bought a hat for herself!
VCGP: How do you wear your vintage?
CC: I'll wear a jacket, a scarf.
The Vintage Advantage
We then dovetail into further discussion, covering old-school Levi's, that suitcase again (I ask it's selling price; it's calling me), and how much time must pass for things to enter the vintage category. It takes at least 20 years, but as time goes on, it may be more than that.
"Some '80s are fine, but ... they're sometimes ... " Colleen makes a face meaning "no good" and trails off. She's talking about exactly how things are made nowadays; more than, or at least equal to style, it's how stuff is made today (we think cheaply) that's also contributing to the surging interest in things from yesteryear.
Besides being the coolest in the room when sporting vintage, it also makes financial sense. Colleen explains "my prices are pretty reasonable. It (buying a vintage garment) is a good option - it's better than going to Bloomingdale's and buying new junk (that doesn't last)!"
Sheryl DiFalco and her teenage daughter Alesandra of Little Falls come into the store, and immediately begin marveling at the items for sale.
Look how beautiful these are," Sheryl says, pointing to what's labeled a "vintage barware" set. "Look at the gold in that. Everything today is a throwaway."
They look around at dresses and boots before finding a stash of vinyl albums near the front window. The dig through it, and in short order they're at the register with mint condition Rolling Stones, Styx, and Steve Miller albums. They just love them, and Alesandra says they are buying them for one of her friends.
"All he listens to is vinyl - he'll love these!" Her mom adds, "what a cool gift, right?"
Colleen is all smiles.
"I feel like I'm constantly getting new people in - and that's a good thing."
In addition the retro wears, Colleen also host events such as art exhibits and trunk shows. To keep up with all Vintage Alley happenings, email Colleen at VintageAlley5@aol.com or all the store at 973-857-3222.