Sandwiched between Kolossos Printing and Vahan’s Clothing & Tailoring on East Liberty Street lays a new vintage shop called Avtomobile, abound with flowers, heaps of one-of-a-kind clothing pieces and original sketch art.
20-year-old owners Maris Turner and Sara Renner said Avtomobile — pronounced Automobile — isn’t focused on specific eras or appealing to costume parties like other vintage stores in the area, but is instead intended to provide Ann Arbor with “everyday vintage wear.”
The duo met at Columbus College of Art and Design where Turner studied illustration and Renner studied fashion design. After working and interning at both Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, Renner said they were both ready to move on and start their own business.
“There’s a lot of these kind of stores in New York, but Ann Arbor doesn’t have it so it’s a new, fresh thing that I feel like is cool that we’re introducing to the people here,” Renner said. “We want it to be wearable.”
She added that in addition to being wearable, the clothing is well priced and one-of-a-kind — all clothing items are either original graphic tees by Turner, tops sewn from scratch, altered vintage pieces designed by Renner or “straight vintage,” according to Renner.
“We want to make sure it’s what our taste is, what we like,” she said. “We want to eventually have our own brand and have it all be our own line and have vintage intersected inside of it instead of being just vintage. We want it to be our own identity.”
Both Turner and Renner also replenish their clothing supply by shopping for new items every Monday and Tuesday at various places in both Michigan and Ohio, and eventually they hope to travel to other areas in search of new vintage items.
“We’ll go to thrift stores, we’ll go to antique shops, my mom’s bringing me stuff from Ohio,” Renner said. “We’ll go up state in Michigan like Traverse City, and on highways there’s just random antique places, like trailers and stuff, that we just love digging through. Eventually we want to go back to New York and go to our hit spots there.”
Renner said she and Turner strategically opened Avtomobile in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Art Fair that was held July 20-22 in order to spread the word about their opening and hopefully garner more business.
“The Art Fair has really brought a lot more traffic,” Renner said. “Because it’s such a kind of hidden little nook, it’s helped bring a lot of traffic … a lot of artists, a lot of young kids, which is more of our demographic — the college student or young professional.”
The owners said they are excited about their location on East Liberty Street and look forward to being amongst the already established surrounding vintage shops in Ann Arbor. Despite the competition, the pair said they believe each store provides a different style and personality, causing less competition than anticipated.
Emilie Parker, manager of Ragstock — located a block from Avtomobile — echoed Renner and Turner’s sentiment and said that each store has their own specialized style, minimizing potential drawbacks from the competition of having multiple stores in the area.
“I think overall it’s going to be good for the area because it’ll bring more retail traffic down this way,” Parker said. “And I think that’s something that’s definitely been needing to happen because there’s so much stuff up on State Street but down this way, in between State and Main, there just hasn’t been a lot.”
Kelly McLeod, co-owner of The Getup on State Street, said she “really encourages” the opening of vintage stores as a whole and thinks providing students with various locations is advantageous to their personal shopping ventures.
“I think my favorite cities like Austin, Texas, parts of New York and Chicago are my favorite cities because there are multiple vintage stores to shop at and it becomes a destination,” McLeod said. “And I think if there were more places like that around here, it only encourages the vintage community to grow here.”
Renner and Turner said they are pleased with the way their store has turned out thus far and don’t desire to expand or open multiple locations. However, they eventually want to become more accessible — especially for the winter months when there is less foot traffic — by making their merchandise available online, Renner said.
She added that she hopes the shop becomes more than just another downtown store for Ann Arbor, and will serve as a business that impacts the community “rather than being like a Starbucks on every corner.”
“We want people to go out of their way to come see us,” Renner said.