Friday, February 19, 2010

20 years of selling vintage clothes in the East Village



On March 1, 1990, Richard Colligan opened Metropolis Vintage Apparel at 96 Avenue B between Sixth Street and Seventh Street. In 1995, he moved to 43 Third Ave. between Ninth Street and 10th Street. Starting tomorrow, the store is celebrating its 20th anniversary, a long time for any type of independent business hereabouts... On the eve of the anniversary, Colligan, a Rockaway Beach native, answered a few questions via e-mail for EV Grieve ....

On Jan. 3, the Post reported: "The East Village's vintage-clothing shops are about to go the way of leisure suits and flapper dresses, as a wave of closures hits home." What was your reaction to the story, which didn't take into account the many stores that remain open and are doing well...?

My reaction to that story, which surprised me, was that so many stores said they're not doing well. The East Village over the last few years has seen a lot of growth of people who have money to spend and, if you don't cater to them, you fall victim of being out of touch. Look, vintage is fashion and fashion changes, if you want to stick to your guns and keep selling what you sold 10 years ago, well go ahead, but be prepared to watch your sales go down as your customers get older and move out of the area. The EV has always been — and I think always will be — a place for young people, as the beatniks, the hippies, the Punks (as myself) the hair metal rockers, the grunge rockers or THE HIPSTERS and young college students of today prove. Today I feature late 80's early 90's in my store. Well, some people say that's not vintage and I say, "What sells is vintage," 1990 was 20 years a go, get used to it. Thirty-year-old eyeballs don't see what a 20-year-old eyeballs see what will be attractive.

Biggest change — for better or worse — that you've seen in the EV/LES in these 20 years?

Crime has been reduced a lot. But never would I have thought that the reduction of crime brought such a bigger increase of prices in RENT. The rent at Avenue B was $1,000 a month, now I pay $10,000 on 3rd Ave. Do I want it to go back to "the good old days?" NO, I will take the rent over the crime. If one day I can't afford the rent, then it's my time to move on.

Many stores have come and gone in the EV through the years... what do you think has made your store successful?

I think I have been able to tap in to what the younger customer wants in vintage. Pushing forward is my motive. I can write a novel of what sold well over the years, but if you get stuck in a rut you rust. The EV is for young people who are finding out about themselves. I just try and help them on that journey.

And Colligan sent along two photos from 1994 of the store when it was on Avenue B....




And tomorrow...

6 comments:

Melanie said...

Nice piece EV Grieve--will have to check Metropolis out.

Bowery Boogie said...

great interview.

Nathan said...

nice piece. i'm a big fan of metropolis. they have a wide range of inventory at great prices. in fact, they just expanded into their basement, almost doubling their floor space. great to see a long-time local business not just surviving but thriving.

Barbara Hanson said...

He obviously doesn't want my custom. Does he do an age check at the door? Don't tell me what a neighborhood is "for," please.

The Takeout Wench. said...

"The EV has always been — and I think always will be — a place for young people, as the beatniks, the hippies, the Punks (as myself) the hair metal rockers, the grunge rockers or THE HIPSTERS and young college students of today prove."

And what happens when none of the natives are left? Is he even really a Punk anymore if he can afford $10 grand a month on rent??

Anonymous said...

"Do I want it to go back to "the good old days?" NO, I will take the rent over the crime. If one day I can't afford the rent, then it's my time to move on."

Leaving aside that our neighborhood doesn't have to be a crime den with cheap rents OR an exorbitantly expensive but super-safe place -- there is such a thing as a happy medium -- obviously stores need to be profitable. It doesn't follow that 10K in monthly rent is reasonable.

I am glad Mr. Colligan is successful enough to pay that much in rent -- but he shouldn't have to! And the reason other stores can't make rent/close is not necessarily because they failed to sufficiently cater to the endless waves of NYU twirps. It's because rent, since 1999 or so, has gone bloody f*cking INSANE.

That said, it's a wonderful store and I'm glad they are there.