Thursday, July 18, 2019

A visit to Metropolis Vintage on Broadway

Photos and interview by Stacie Joy

Meeting Richard Colligan at the new location — as of late May — of Metropolis at 803 Broadway (between 11th Street and 12th Street) was a trip down memory lane.

Richard’s vintage shop was my neighbor on Avenue B back in the 1990s and I still have a t-shirt I bought there 20-plus years ago.

We played the “do you remember game” for a while reminiscing about the old days when he paid $1,000 a month for rent on the store, had Hells Angels shopping there for denim and bought from MTV VJs who lived in the area.

Here's what else he had to say...

You first opened the store in 1990 at 96 Avenue B between Sixth and Seventh Streets. Did you envision that nearly 30 years later you’d not only still be doing well in business, but also in a large retail space on Broadway?

Well, I really loved a store called Canal Jean Co. They always had a mix of new and vintage clothing and I wanted to be like Canal Jean. I wanted to open a big space for a long time so I guess, yes — it is a dream come true.

As for 30 years — WOW — I always wanted to make it to 65 and then think about quitting but the question was could I keep up with the younger dealers in vintage as per styles and sourcing?

[Avenue B photo via Richard Colligan]

How long had you been looking for a larger space? Was staying in the neighborhood important to you?

It took about a year between looking and negotiating to get the space. [Metropolis left Avenue B for 43 Third Ave. before heading to Broadway.] Yes, it was very important to stay in the neighborhood. I mean, I did think about Brooklyn or Harlem but my roots are in the East Village.

Your concert/band t-shirts always seem to be popular, accounting for approximately 50 percent of your sales. What are people coming into the store looking for these days?

Besides t-shirts? Definitely 1990s-style clothing. Like Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Cross Colours, JNCO jeans, lots of color. Denim is selling good to women, especially smaller-size jeans or high-waisted ones. In t-shirts, classic rock is big, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, the Grateful Dead.

Who is your typical customer? Are your in-store shoppers different than your online Etsy shoppers?

In store, the customer age range is 15 to 35, with lots of college students at the old Third Avenue location. But now that I am on Broadway, we get LOTS of tourist. Online Etsy customers sometimes come in but they’re looking for specific items. Inside the store customers can explore and find stuff but still it’s the same basic vintage customer.

How have you seen the neighborhood continue to evolve — at least from a retail perspective?

Well, Avenue B days it was very local, young high school kids from the neighbor and college age or older people who just moved in. The Hells Angels would come in buy denim. It was very very local years ago. The Third Avenue space had lots of college and high school kids from all over the NYC area and some tourists. About 15 years ago we started to get people who had the means to drop a lot of money starting to come in.

What do you think has made Metropolis a survivor here for nearly 30 years?

Very simple: focus on the customer. Go out every week and shop for new items and put things out every week. Don’t keep the best stuff for yourself, offer it to the customer first, let them have that experience of finding that special item. Keep your overhead low and look to new styles and vintage trends. It’s very easy to dismiss new vintage trends as you grow older. Exercise your eyes and train them to look forward and slowly give up on what the past good sellers were.

[Manager Stephen Voland]

[Sales associate Larry Gonzalez]

[Sales associate Skeleton Boy]

[Sales associate Skunk]

What’s next for you and the shop?

Keep doing the same thing but refine it to make our formula better. Try to do more with TV and movie productions.


The shop is open every day, noon until 8 p.m.


Anonymous said...

As you can see in most of the pics, it's mostly teens who's parents can afford shopping here. I can only imagine how much more expensive it is going to get here. I respect staying in and being from the neighborhood, but I'd probably never shop here, and I do shop quite a lot in the other vintage/thrift shops around here, but because they're affordable.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this! very interesting. I never even thought of "vintage trends." Will definitely stop by.

rockn'roll said...

This place is awesome! I remember it when it was Av B (less than a half-block from my apt)... So glad to see something from back then still thriving and expanding! The staff there is cool and knowledgeable; an East Village institution we should definitely be supporting and celebrating!

Trigger said...

The best Vintage Store in NYC!
Great variation and prices and they’re always getting in new stock.