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.”
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 email@example.com and tell us what YOU like.
It’s a beautiful time of year, and the Phoenix Convention Center will delight out-of-state visitors. DPJ extends its own form of hospitality by providing a little Conventional Wisdom — some insight into what Purina Mills expo-goers can find/view/sip/snack on while visiting Downtown Phoenix.
February 16-18, 2010 — Purina Mills, LLC
Let DPJ be the first to welcome you to the neighborhood! Looking over your itinerary, we can’t help but notice you’re going to have some free time to explore the heart of our fair city.
Average high: 77°
Average low: 52º
The Melrose District on 7th Avenue north of Indian School Road is 1-mile stretch rich with boutiques and eclectic restaurants, many of which welcome your furry friends and your pets. The Melrose District is a quick walk from the Central/Indian School METRO light rail station and from Steele Indian School Park. Qcumberz is an antique junkie’s paradise, but go with a searcher’s spirit. Each room is jam packed with furniture, books, artwork, knickknacks, cookware and beyond. Across the way is Paris Envy, a charming shop filled with French and French-inspired antique and reproduction household items. You’ll find lots of frill here, but substance, too. Other spots to check out are Flo’s on 7th, Retro Ranch, Hollywood Regency Vintage and Fig’s Home and Garden, just to name a few. For more on these shops, check out “Get Your Boutique On: Melrose”.
All that shopping is bound to work up a mighty appetite. Enter Harley’s Italian Bistro, a restaurant that has been a Phoenix tradition for nearly 60 years. The staff here will make you feel right at home, whether you are a regular or it’s your first visit. At Harley’s you will find generous portions of fresh, made-from-scratch sauces, pastas, hand-tossed pizza and homemade cannoli and tiramisu. Harley’s also has a small patio out back where pets are welcome to stay at your side.
If you’re craving lighter fare, directly across the way is Copper Star Coffee, a renovated gas station turned café, and self-proclaimed “Sandwich King of 7th Ave.” Here, enjoy an iced cappucino (yes, they make such a thing) with a side of free wi-fi on one of the many couches or community tables.
Phoenix dinner options span across many regions and continents, and locally grown dinner options are on the rise in Downtown Phoenix, with even more options if you hop on the METRO light rail.
Check out The Turf Irish Restaurant and Pub, where “there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met.” Serving an array of cuisine, from classic Irish fare to steak sandwiches and handmade wraps, there’s something for every palate. Stay for a pint or two at the bar, at $5.50 a pour. Unwind after a long day at the conference by enjoying live music on Thursdays and Fridays.
RailLife.com’s quick METRO light rail tip: The light rail line splits heading south into one-way streets at Roosevelt station (Central/Roosevelt) — 1st Avenue heads south, while Central Avenue goes north. When the line heads east, you’ll be traveling along Jefferson Street. When going west, it’s Washington Street. These one-way streets converge at 26th Street. Check out a map if you’re confused.
Long before Downtown Phoenix became the “Downtown Phoenix” of recent memory, the Melrose District on 7th Avenue provided a home for local artists, business owners and restaurateurs. Years later, the district is still bustling, boasting an impressive number of independently owned and operated stores.
Three such establishments, Qcumberz, Rust and Roses and Retro Ranch, capture the essence of this mile-long mecca. All three strive, and succeed, in creating an environment where shopping is fun again and treasure hunting pays off — big time.
The oldest, 15-year-old Qcumberz, has endured a major face lift and expansion to its current 6,500 square feet. Yet it’s enjoyed steady business despite a faltering economy and seemingly constant construction.
“We have shoppers from every strata: young, old, rich, poor. [There are] just as many single guys as women buying for the home,” says owner Linda Moore-Lanning. “We have low prices — the best prices in town — and a broader range than most stores.”
Moore-Lanning, 64, took over the store 10 years ago and has remained a hands-on business owner ever since. Even as her husband battles cancer, Moore-Lanning continues to purchase products, style the store and stay involved.
“It’s a small business, a classic mom-and-pop shop” she says.
Indeed, the store resembles a collection of pieces from the mom-and-pop shops of the 1950s. Or, in many cases, items from houses that belonged to someone’s mom and pop. From full table-and-chair sets to seedy romance novels, Qcumberz leaves no decade or genre unturned. It even boasts an impressive collection of historic doors and windows. Yes, windows.
Moore-Lanning notes that there are a lot of historic homes in the area that look for pieces that fit the time period — be it furniture or a specific hinge. Many customers come in looking to start a project. They find ideas, parts and pieces, she says. And, though the shop does see a lot of customers who come in looking for desired pieces, many come for inspiration.
“A lot of people come here and browse for two or three hours,” she says. “A lot come to escape. It triggers a memory.”
Undeniably, all of the store’s stock belongs to someone’s memories. Moore-Lanning does most of the purchasing, though Qcumberz is home to five or six different vendors. They bring in their finds, and Moore-Lanning gets a piece of the commission. The variety is apparent, providing the ideal environment for perusing on a lazy afternoon, and the items change daily.
“Everything eventually goes through Qcumberz,” Moore-Lanning explains. “We go through every legal place [to find things]. Wherever there’s good stuff or interesting stuff, we’re always in the middle; we get new stuff every day. You never know what you’re going to find — we never know what we’re going to find.”
That constant inflow and devoted patronage has kept the Melrose District on the map as a shopping destination. Soon after Qcumberz opened its doors on a then-vacant 7th Avenue, several like-minded shops followed suit. Though the local market took a bit of a dip after 9/11, Moore-Lanning says she noticed one day that there were suddenly 25 boutiques in the district. The number has stayed fairly consistent, which allows businesses to feed off each other’s customers.
“We’re probably the best-known independent store,” she says. “It’s the kind of business America is made of. The economy has definitely affected it, and in some ways we should be recession proof. But, when people start to need more furniture… when the cabinet breaks for the sofa rips… we’re a fun store. We’re a destination shop.”
Ironically, the destination status hurt Qcumberz during the three-year light rail construction. Business slowed substantially for the entire district, and even with the light rail recovery has been slow.
Yet, fellow businesses Rust and Roses and Retro Ranch have also maintained a modest yet consistent following.
After 12 years in the business, Shelly Session has seen boutique traffic ebb and flow. Session, 44, opened Rust and Roses three years ago. The store is an extension of Session’s own style, and its success led her to open a companion clothing boutique, Sirens and Saints, this past September. The boutique was something she always wanted to do, she says, and has only helped business.
Whereas Rust and Roses has an “urban farmhouse chic” feel, she describes Sirens and Saints as a place to find “hand-selected, limited-quantity clothing at a very good, competitive price point. A vintage feel in an urban, hip way.” Regardless, Session’s stores are rooted in practicality.
In choosing the products to showcase in her stores, Session says she looks for two things: functionality and feeling. The pieces have to fit the mood of the store, which she calls “dreamy, monochromatic and livable.”
“It doesn’t matter if you put a glass on the table, it makes it better,” she says.
All of the garden iron pieces are manufactured from vintage prototype pieces. The store itself feels French inspired, with a touch of flair — Session has two pairs of Romanesque columns and a pair of old chairs reupholstered in zebra print. She styles the store to look like a livable warehouse, with furniture that could be from your grandmother’s house — except grandma would never showcase a pair of gold heels in a bell jar.
“I’ve always worked in retail,” Session says. “I’ve always done home. I like to mix this architectural feel with modern home living.”
Session travels at least once a month to collect the pieces she sells. The continental U.S. is fair game, but the majority of the inspiration and look comes from Western Europe. Still, Session does not discount the power of Phoenix. She regularly participates in Third Thursday, and frequently has artists perform in front of her store.
Utilizing a local atmosphere has kept Melrose alive, and that is the sole feeling behind Retro Ranch, located just up the street from Rust and Roses.
Owned by Indigo Nielsen, Retro Ranch houses vintage found in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The inspiration for the name comes from the ranch-style houses in the area. The store has a distinct 1960s and ’70s feel, and Nielsen primarily finds her items at yard or estate sales.
She attributes Phoenix’s diverse population and constant influx of people to the great finds she sells. The fact that Melrose has so many great treasure hunt boutiques on one strip has only solidified the district and given it a new energy, she adds.
Retro Ranch lends itself to a fun environment, and is constructed that way to benefit the customer, she says. It was given the Phoenix New Times 2009 Best of Phoenix award for vintage clothing, most of which is supplied by vendor lollyPOP vintage.
In addition, Nielsen houses a large collection of furniture and one-of-a-kind pieces. She hopes to expand the store in the direction of accessories, and has received many requests to carry record players and similar music equipment.
The best part of the business, Nielsen says, is not dong the collecting and buying that she loves, but meeting the customer.
“I just love getting to meet the cool people that walk in the store. I feel so lucky,” she says.
QCumberz is located at 4429 N. 7th Ave. — 602.277.5133. Rust and Roses is located at 4200 N. 7th Ave. — 602.264.4999. Retro Ranch is located at 4303 N. 7th Ave. — 602.297.1971. All are accessible via light rail stations at Central/Indian School, Central/Campbell and 7th Ave/Camelback.