Alexandria Ellis Talks SHE Vintage
A Q&A with the thrifty founder of one of Erie's up-and-coming new businesses
Erie has become home to many new businesses cropping up over the past few years. Most recently making their mark, is SHE Vintage. The boutique and beauty bar, owned by Alexandria Ellis, was the host for the recent "Black Girl Magic" Pop-Up shops and features hand-picked vintage pieces in immaculate condition.
Elvis Andromeda Maryshine: Can you give me a little bit of background on what inspired you to open up SHE Vintage?
Alexandria Ellis: I've always been a big thrifter and into vintage. Growing up, I would go to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, rummage sales, and consignment stores with my mom, grandma, and aunts. They were all into fashion but on a serious budget. As they were growing up, my grandma always got their clothes either from second-hand stores or hand made them. So vintage is in my blood.
EAM: How did you start?
AE: I started SHE Vintage in 2013 as an online store. Around 2012, thrifting had started to become more of a trend, especially on Instagram. I had been thrifting a lot at the time and decided to make a website to kind of capitalize on something I loved doing. I had the website up and going for about a year but I stopped doing it [at the time] because I was working full time and raising a small daughter. Over the years, I had worked full time as a visual merchandiser and manager for a few different retail stores in the mall. I even moved to Evansville, Indiana to work for H&M. I moved back to Erie in 2017 and started doing nails. In 2019 I was let go from my job; at that point [I was] convinced that I would never work for anyone again. I wanted to be able to express myself in my own way and make my own rules. I wanted to combine my love of fashion, my retail experience, and cosmetology experience all in one – offer Erie something we have never seen before. I pulled my inspiration from stores I've seen in NYC, LA, and Atlanta. That one-stop shop of nails, boutique, and mini cafe.
EAM: I noticed SHE Vintage also provides beauty services, can you elaborate on that?
AE: [Beauty] Services offered are nails, brow waxing/tinting, lash tinting, and lash extensions. I focus mainly on natural nails and helping the natural nails grow, so I don't do acrylic, only gel and dip powder. Currently, I am the only one working and doing services so I limit the days that I do services. That way I can focus more on building the brand, creating content, and inventory. Hopefully, I can get a licensed tech in here soon!
EAM: What's your process for finding vintage pieces?
AE: Scouting thrift stores, consignment shops, random second-hand stores, and recently I've gotten into estate sales! I try to set aside days where I take the whole day and go "hunting." Sometimes I do spur of the moment trips. I walk through and handpick all items. I look for great prints, vintage name brands, just all around cool pieces. I select pieces that are good quality fabric, like 100% wool or 100% silk. I also look at where the garment was made. Once I have everything home I steam it, clean it & start merchandising!
EAM: What made you choose Erie for your business?
AE: Erie is home. I grew up in Erie, My family and friends are here. I feel like Erie is on the rise and it's shifting in a new direction for the better. Younger people are able to have a voice and be heard. Black businesses are on the rise & gaining more exposure now more than ever. Minorities are able to sit at tables that we previously were never able to sit at. Erie is changing and I am happy to be part of that change while I'm here. I want to grow where I am planted
EAM: What challenges have you faced opening SHE Vintage?
AE: [Grant] Funding! As a black business owner, It's hard to get access to funding and resources. I see so many local businesses popping up that have full-blown signs, marketing, and nice buildings. Then there's me, starting from the bottom and spending money out of pocket for everything. Marketing and advertising has been a challenge. It's hard getting customers in the door because I have no advertisements.