While Melrose District staple Retro Ranch has fans that spread well beyond the downtown community, locals and tourists alike had to visit the store in person to see the ever-changing goods on hand. But now, despite its vintage status, Retro Ranch has launched a seemingly anachronistic online presence to make a name for itself in 2014.
At the beginning of the year, the store launched an Instagram account to attract the social-media savvy crowd with curated visuals. The store has also recently launched an Etsy shop, bringing online shopping to those who are searching near and far for the best from Phoenix’s past.
Formerly called Retro Redux, Indigo Hunter acquired the store in 2009 when the previous owner retired. In addition to a slight name change, a few other updates have slowly made their way through the densely-packed aisles.
Michelle Eichenberger, a member of the Retro Ranch team, has helped bring a modern perspective to the vintage market.
“There’s no way to keep up with a business anymore if you don’t [use social media],” Eichenberger said. “That’s what makes it hard for the smaller, even more old-school places like us.”
Until recently the store did not even have a computer, so they are learning to manage old and new technologies. Caty Rushing, another team member, said they complete all business transactions by hand to stay true to the store’s vintage flair.
“It’s very bare bones, but it really works for us,” Rushing said. “And that’s why I think branching into the social media thing was kind of a big deal because it’s really heading into the more technical direction.”
One of the reasons they started posting merchandise on Instagram was of the app’s straightforward approach to displaying merchandise, thus making it more accessible for customers. Many have already purchased items they saw on the account.
“That’s the whole point of stores putting their merchandise on that [social media]. As soon as you see it, you want to go and buy it,” Eichenberger said.
The variety of Retro Ranch gives the store another advantage over other stores that sell vintage or antiques, but the obstacle is finding a way to effectively communicate what it offers.
“We’re an antique store, but we’re kind of focused on antiques that younger people are interested in,” Hunter said. “We don’t work with a lot of the much older pieces. Reaching those [younger] people are online a lot.”
In merging the old and the new, Retro Ranch has partnered with local record store Stinkweeds, which provides a listening station at the front of the store where customers can listen and purchase music handpicked by the Stinkweeds staff.
Dario Miranda, a sales associate at Stinkweeds, said there needs to be a balance between traditional and modern selling practices.
“There’s a trick to it with the social media,” Miranda said. “You could be a robot online or show that your establishment has a personality, and that’s what you’re trying to sell.”
While it can be easy to lose the vintage essence in modern platforms, staff members from both Retro Ranch and Stinkweeds said they maintain the retro vibe of the store through the language and presentation.
“I think it’s almost like a preservation of the past, of the town, of the city,” Rushing said. “I feel like it’s a way for things to be re-purposed—for things to be re-appreciated and brought back into the community.”
Despite the continuously changing business model, the Retro Ranch team strives to leave customers with a taste of the past whether it is in the store or online.
“The challenge isn’t getting people in the door, it’s keeping up with technology,” Hunter said. “We want to make it more known.”
Don’t miss the once-a-year opportunity to peer into the studios of working artists and wander through galleries during Artlink’s Art Detour 26 this weekend. Along with the top art venues of downtown Phoenix and countless pop-up exhibits, dozens of painters, sculptors, photographers, glassblowers, and other creative minds open the doors of their private space to curious visitors.
With the event map in hand, art lovers can explore more than 100 stops on a two-day self-guided tour, many within convenient walking distance of the free Art Detour shuttle route. Docents ride along on two London-style double-decker buses circulating continuously at 20-minute intervals between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, while four information hubs at Phoenix Art Museum, Oasis on Grand, CityScape, and the Arizona Center provide volunteers ready to answer questions.
The adventure begins this evening with a greater-than-usual array of First Friday opportunities, including an open rehearsal by the Phoenix Chorale at Trinity Cathedral. While you’re there, check out Olney Gallery’s Color Color Color! exhibition, featuring work by Kaori Takamura, Sarah Kriehn, and Christopher Jagmin.
Elsewhere, the weekend is filled with live music — along with a multitude of casual performances like Bones of Folk’s Danyul Kostin at Oasis on Grand and the Moonlight Howlers at The Lost Leaf, tonight’s ambitious Viva Phx festival brings 70 groups — including Sir Mix-A-Lot, The Neighbourhood, Black Carl, Tobie Milford, and Pinback — to 14 venues ranging from Crescent Ballroom to the Hotel San Carlos to the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center. The next day, Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 fills Saturday with tunes from Hans Olson, Leon J’s JukeJoint, the Mike Eldred Trio, and other Rhythm Room stars at Margaret T. Hance Park — show an Art Detour map for a ticket discount.
Once your ears are satiated, fill your eyes with images from Artlink board member Hugo Medina, curator of the Phoenix Phabulous History Mural showing at Walter Studios. “I think it’s important that artists keep creating, pulling forward, which I try to do with my own work as well,” he says. “Phoenix is a phenomenal destination…. We’ve just got to start getting the collectors to start coming out, and that’s the challenge.”
For the month of March, R. Pela Contemporary Art will display Banned at the Herberger, including part of a controversial canceled show originally scheduled last fall at the Herberger Theater Center Art Gallery. The exhibit includes work by Mike Ford, Ronnie Ray Mendez, and Lisa Albinger. “Mike Ford’s photographs, about his relationship with his mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, have such depth,” says curator Robrt Pela. “There’s sadness, and camp, and real emotion. I had to share them.”
He continues, “I think that the art that I’m showing…I want there to be craftsmanship and beauty, but there has to be another element too…some commentary, some politics, some pain. It can’t just be something that’s lovely to look at because that isn’t quite enough.”
Other popular, highly-regarded mainstays anchoring First Friday and Art Detour include Practical Art and monOrchid. Great Arizona Puppet Theater offers edgy, quirky, adults-only Puppet Slams both Friday and Saturday nights.
All weekend, kids can find plenty of fun with finger-paint murals, demonstrations, workshops, and other family-friendly activities at Kids’ Detour, various galleries and studios, and the Blues Blast. Retailers and restaurateurs also add to the experience with extended weekend hours and specials.
If you go:
- Artlink First Friday on March 7
- Viva Phx music festival on March 7
- Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast ’14 on March 8
- Artlink’s Art Detour 26 on March 8-9
District 4 Councilman Tom Simplot and community members will celebrate the installation of a new gateway arch across Seventh Avenue just north of Indian School Road with an event 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20.
“The Melrose District and Seventh Avenue as a whole are two of the most vibrant, growing areas of central Phoenix. It’s an artistic and community hub, and this gateway is a perfect way to celebrate its diverse identity,” said Councilman Simplot.
The arch adds a distinctive artistic element to one of Phoenix’s main arterial streets, constructed using an 80-foot steel truss structure with 24-foot columns. Lit at night, the sign lettering mirrors Seventh Avenue’s distinctive curve in the Melrose district.
“Business owners and community members are ecstatic about the arch,” added Seventh Avenue Merchants Association president Teresa Stickler. “We really see it as aiding our mission of building and beautifying our community.”
The Melrose arch is made of half-inch steel plates, with decorative lettering etched in using a plasma cutter. All together, the truss and panels weigh approximately 43,000 pounds, with each column weighing 9,800 pounds.
The Weitz Company was the contractor for the project, with Gensler as the prime consultant and architect, and the firms of Aztec Engineering Group, Inc; PK Associates and Henderson Engineers serving as the design team.
If You Go
Event: Melrose Gateway Sign Commemoration
Date: Wednesday, November 20
Time: 7 p.m.
Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
This cool bookcase was a recent find at Retro Ranch, one of downtown Phoenix’s inspiring vintage shops found in the Melrose District along 7th Ave. The shop is full of treasures, such as this one-of-kind bookcase that doesn’t have an identifying label or stamp. To this shopper, the lack of a label simply adds to its mysterious allure.
The bookcase consists of three pieces that stack on top of each other, including an extended shelf perfect for displaying an eye-popping vintage phone. I like the dark wood with its antique appearance, but I love the unique patina that results from a scattering of worn spots. Maybe it’s a look that only a true vintage collector could adore, but I think you might feel the same way!
Another find included these blue gray “Zodiac” pointed-toe ankle boots that I discovered in the clothing section. Yes, that’s right – Retro Ranch has a clothing section full of irreplaceable shoes, frocks and accessories that will inspire anyone to get up in the morning and pull together a dynamic new look.
I like the gently worn 80’s vibe of these boots, which makes them a perfect accessory to simple, or a more polished look. This label is seemingly no longer in production, which is all the more reason to browse through Retro Ranch for more undiscovered beauties!
Retro Ranch, 4303 N. 7th Ave., 602-297-1971
Want to share your love? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what YOU like.
The Seventh Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA) is seeking design submissions for new street banners. Currently there are 42 light pole banners that line the Melrose District (7th Ave from Camelback to Indian School Road). SAMA is seeking to have those banners updated and replaced with three different designs reflecting the themes: shopping, dining and services.
Details of submission:
Banners are 26 inches wide by 64 inches tall. Designs must be in full color and contain the SAMA branding in a visible and prominent way. Designer must submit graphics for all three themes (shopping, dining and services). Designs will leave a 26 inch wide by 15 inch tall blank space at the bottom of each banner for banner sponsor information. This blank space can coordinate in color and feel with the overall design. All submissions must be in either .pdf or .ai format and must be print ready. Design must submitted by Wednesday August 22, 2012. The winning design will be announced Friday August 31, 2012.
Please email all submissions to email@example.com with “2012 banner designs” in the subject line.
For more information please contact Meghan Olesen at 480.703.2620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.