Co-Owners Jenny Salata (the French) and April Burger (the fried), along with their stuffed-chicken mascot (the vintage) have opened a new shop at 1520 North Central. The two have been doing pop-ups for a while and have acquired a following for their vintage, or maybe more correctly, “retro,” clothing and other sundry items. Fun fact: Did you know the 80’s are now retro? Seems weird to us of a certain age, but true.
Jenny was born in rural Louisiana, and moved to Maryville when she was six with her mother. She describes her years after high school as wanting to leave, doing so for a year or two at a time, but never quite pulling it off permanently. After getting a bachelor’s in French from UT, she lived in France for a couple of years where she perfected the language.
She returned to East Tennessee with plans of immediately leaving for Hawaii where she had been accepted to graduate school. She realized she didn’t want to leave and applied to graduate school at UT where she eventually got her MA in French. She now teaches French at UT and has lived happily in the area for the last eight years. She’s particularly fallen for Old North where she spends most of her time.
April grew up just outside Knoxville, in Lenoir City. She moved to Knoxville after high school. She said, “I’m fried because I’m country.” The sentence was delivered with a bit of a charming drawl. She started working at Planet Xchange, and worked there for ten years. During that time she met Justin and they had Nora, now seven and Otto, who is eight-months old.
Nora, who has had medical issues from birth and is waiting for a heart transplant, can sometimes be seen around the shop being a “typical seven-year old.” Justin sells motorcycles for Harley Davidson and the couple travel festivals including (recently) Sound and Fury. I understand that to be a cross between metal and punk. They are also “straight-edge,” meaning they do not do drugs or alcohol. They are also vegetarian, which is sometimes a part of that lifestyle, but for them goes back even further. I learned a lot in this conversation.
Jenny and April met at Planet Xchange and struck up a friendship there, realizing they both love vintage clothes. They decided to take a small step into the retro fashion world with a booth at Retrospect. “It’s hard to do things by yourself. We are different humans.” In 2016, they started an Etsy site as French Fried Vintage and joined the Depop platform for vintage clothes. They did a pop-up in Asheville last fall.
Last fall also marked a turning point in their decision to open a brick and mortar shop. They did a six-week pop-up at Striped Light in October and November. “That is what told us we can do this. We had had opportunities but were nervous. We made money and started looking for a space.” They thought Central Street in Old North near Happy Holler was the right spot for them — April lived on nearby Atlantic for five years — and took possession of their current location in June.
The two love thrifting and “grew up in thrifting households.” They both like buying used because of the impact of the fashion industry on the environment. “Ten percent of the world’s carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry. Fashion brands are responding to vintage. We want people to have the original.” They say the currently manufactured reproductions aren’t made as well, they cost more, and then there is that carbon thing.
In the store you can expect what they describe as “hipster vintage.” They say the 80s are hot right now, but they also have “older clothes, accessories, and fun doo-dads.” They have collector’s cards (I saw Mick Jagger on one!), mugs, purses, jewelry and more. They also have a selection of plus sizes which is something that not every shop carries.
They are both big on community, both the physical community, and the community of vintage businesses. They are proud to be a part of the community of female-owned and local businesses. They also want to have clothing for all people and are proud to have a selection of clothes for children. They think they can find something even for the person who doesn’t picture themselves wearing vintage.
They are open everyday. Hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 6:00 PM, Saturday, noon to 7:00 PM and Sunday from noon to 5:00 PM. They say to bring the kids and pups, everyone is welcome. You’ll find them open each First Friday with a featured artist. In September they will feature artist Jenny Pickle. You’ll also find them at Second Bell this Saturday, so you can say hello there if you can’t drop into the store this week.