Culture Trip: Tell us a little about yourselves – what were your career paths?
Victoria Nicoll: I grew up in New York and moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University. I worked a ton of random jobs trying to figure out what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until I met my husband and started going to flea markets that I thought about selling vintage. I’ve always been a visual person with a vintage aesthetic, and very meticulous in nature, so [having a vintage store] combines these qualities in a weirdly perfect way.
Victoria says she was tapped by Belljar through her Instagram, and worked there as a visual merchandiser alongside manager Lindsey Chambers. She then rented a 350 square foot space in the back of Carousel Consignment, a vintage furniture store on Mission street, which she says grew very quickly.
VN: I rented the 1,600 square foot space on Valencia we now have, and realized I couldn’t do it alone. I was 26 with bad credit and no real experience running a business, but I had a vibe, a following and a whole lot of clothes. Lindsey was my sales and business mentor, and I reached out to her for help. It suddenly all made sense; I needed a Lindsey. Her sales and operations knowledge, as well as her bright and bubbly attitude, make her a pleasure to work with everyday. That optimism and positivity is worth more than anything. She is my account man. The Roger Sterling to my Don Draper.
Lindsey Chambers hails from Nevada and has been in San Francisco for eight years. Her career started in advertising, of which she says the following:
LC: I was miserable with the mundane yet stressful 9-to-5 and just wasn’t passionate about it anymore. I told my husband I wanted to have my own store (with no actual experience; just a ton of desire), and with nothing but support he suggested I work at a shop first. So two years ago I started managing Belljar in the Mission and realized how much I love retail, but more specifically small boutique ownership. I learned so much about running a successful small business at BellJar but, more importantly, this is where I met Victoria. I loved her style and the windows she did for Belljar and was beyond excited and inspired when she opened her store inside Carousel Consignment. Her taste and aesthetic was spot-on and the brand she developed was totally awesome and something I hadn’t seen before. I knew that I loved running a boutique and still wanted my own, but didn’t know what I wanted it to be. I also learned how hard it is to do alone. When Victoria proposed partnering up, I was honored and beyond excited. I knew we would work great together and it was going to be amazing. All of my weaknesses are her strengths and a partnership doesn’t get better than that. I like to think of us as the perfect dynamic duo.
CT: So many vintage stores seem cramped and stuffy – yours is so bright and beautiful! What was your inspiration for the interior of the store?
VN: Thank you! We wanted to keep the concept for the overall space very bright and modern, and keep the colorful clothes the focal point. The biggest challenge was having such a big, open space and making it still feel small and welcoming and boutique-y. The more crowded and stuffy a space becomes, the less special each item seems to become. We wanted to maintain the clean feel and friendly customer service of an upscale boutique, while selling vintage. We really enjoy breaking the stereotype of the dingy overcrowded vintage store and letting the pieces breathe.
At Wallflower you’re encouraged to take photos. We’re not taking your bag, making you turn your phone off, or ignoring you. We care about you, and we want you to have fun!
CT: What do you love about vintage clothing?
LC: The best part about vintage is that every garment is unique, and when it’s right it’s right. You just know it’s meant to be yours!
VN: Our aesthetic is very California in the 60s and 70s, and combines a dreamy nostalgia for the music, attitude and fashion of the time. The aesthetic of Wallflower combines the best of different eras in a way that still feels modern. Flattering cuts, perfect patterns and each piece meticulously chosen for quality and condition. Our goal is to carry pieces that are realistic and wearable for modern women. We have a zero duds policy here.
CT: What would you say is your point of view for Wallflower?
VN: Free spirited, sassy, girly, and fun. For days spent at the park or the beach or in a convertible. Also lots of wearable basics and boss lady separates ’cause, ya know, a girl’s gotta work.
CT: Why did you choose the Mission for the store?
VN: I feel like the Mission chose us, and I couldn’t think of a better location for the store. There are so many creative people here, and we’ve really felt the love from neighbors and tourists alike. We are thrilled to be surrounded by such a great community that has been so welcoming of our new small business.
CT: How would you describe your personal style?
VN: Big-haired 70s babe with a side of boss lady. Brigitte Bardot meets Peg Bundy.
LC: Ever-evolving; my style changes daily. For everyday, I’ve been wearing a lot of what we like to call ‘Boss Lady’ outfits. Power pants, power jackets, power cuffs. Christina Applegate in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
CT: Any news about in store events or such?
LC: We are currently working on upcoming events and trunk shows for the summer, and aim to have an event every month or two where we can collaborate with local artists as well as amazing vintage collectors. Follow along on Instagram and Facebook for all our future event announcements.
CT: How does living in San Francisco inspire you as businesswomen?
VN: San Francisco is not only visually inspiring, with its beautiful plants that bloom year round and postcard views at every turn, but there is so [also] much more opportunity here than I’ve ever experienced. Coming from New York, the difference in population, attitude and general way of thinking is so much more conducive here to personal growth and growth in business. If you have a great idea and are great at what you do, you can have it all.
LC: There is something about this city that makes me want to do it all and have it all, but without the hustle-and-bustle and craziness of other big, concrete-jungle cities. It’s just a bridge hop away for an amazing outdoor adventure or my favorite pastime: hot springs. It’s a great city for working hard and playing hard.
San Francisco is known for being accepting and loving of all, and I think that’s inspiring on a daily basis. So many different people with different styles and backgrounds come in and shop, and it’s so fun to see what piece will call out to them and to watch them take it home and give it a new life.
Partnering up with Victoria and opening the new Wallflower was such a great decision. I am so proud to be a female, small business owner in San Francisco and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Wallflower Vintage Boutique, 1176 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA +1 (415) 341 0314