From the yellow, brown and orange paint that colors the walls to the Van Halen vinyl spinning on the record player, Throwback Outpost is a portal to the retro era.
While preserving history through clothing, records and more, the store and its employees advocate for sustainable and ethically-sourced clothing and goods.
Part owner Mason Doane said vintage stores can be taken for “a more expensive Goodwill.” However, employees at the store carefully choose the inventory.
“It takes years of experience just to get to where you're at, where you can curate it where people will like it,” Doane said. “We're sometimes at the shop 'til midnight cleaning or stitching something back together, repairing it, or stretching the size back out to get to an original size.”
Before Throwback Outpost was a storefront, the individual sellers became close friends while running their small businesses out of booths at the NoMa Warehouse on Sumter Street. Not long after, the friends came up with the idea of combining their individual booths into a store.
“We felt like we had all the tools among the five of us to cover all of our bases since we all do totally different things and have totally different ways of thinking, so it started as like, ‘Wow, that would be really fun to do that altogether,’" Part owner Nicolette Bryan said. "And it just started rolling from there.”
The group acquired the property in December 2022. In just three weeks, it remodeled and had the store up and running for its opening day on Jan. 27.
Part Owner Alex Smith said the group’s dynamic made the shop come together so quickly and is why it continues to work well.
“What really makes us work is that we're just an eclectic group of funky people,” Smith said. “I think that's where we find our strength as a unit, is that each of us does different things well, and we're always willing to help each other and learn.”
All of Throwback Outpost's employees have an area of expertise. Part owner Bryan Kerouac focuses on vinyl records that he professionally cleans and restores.
Being a young adult in the '70s, Bryan Kerouac said he experienced the original releases of the vinyl records he cleans and wore styles like those in the store.
Despite not living through that age, Bryan Kerouac said Throwback Outpost's younger employees, like his daughter and part owner Natalia Kerouac, are still able to bring their own expertise to the store.
“I go with my daughter thrifting, and she says, ‘Oh, look vintage!’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about? I wore that brand new 30, 40 years ago,’” Bryan Kerouac said. “I loved clothes back then, and now all these kids are shopping for stuff I sold new.”
In addition to pre-loved vintage items, the store also sells terrariums and custom rugs.
Bryan, who is the artist behind the design of the store, is in charge of the terrariums and rugs.
Bryan said she started making terrariums as a kid in Girl Scouts but never grew out of her love for plants. She started thrifting glass jars and saw how she could incorporate her love of plants.
“I do a lot of research and add little components to (my terrariums) that make them a little bit more likely to live forever,” Bryan said. “Hopefully, they’re something that won't die at all. I have a policy that if it dies, you bring it back for me to just fix it for free because the idea is that you just take it home and water it every once in a while, and it just lives.”
Although the products Bryan creates are new, she said the nostalgia of something one made as a child, like a homemade terrarium, emulates the same throwback factor.
Bryan Kerouac said customers often come in looking to reminisce on the days of their youth or, in terms of the younger crowd, hope to learn about the days of their parents' youth.
“We want people to walk in that are my age and go, ‘Oh my gosh, I used to go into stores that look just like this 30, 40 years ago,'” Bryan Kerouac said. “It really is supposed to throw you back to the dates where these things were just brand new.”
Smith said the store sees college students the most out of everybody that walks into the shop.
“They have a real appreciation for this stuff,” Smith said. “Our parents got to experience this firsthand, whereas now this is a new experience for our generation.”
The love for secondhand and old things is not just a passion for its employees, however. Doane said sustainability is also an important part of the whole business.
“Mainly what has really kept me in it for the long run is the sustainability factor of it, keeping stuff out of landfills and supporting second-hand clothing and smaller businesses, rather than fast fashion where a lot of stuff is made in sweatshops,” Doane said.
For Doane, getting into vintage clothing started off as a cost-efficient way of shopping.
In high school, he said that high clothing costs at the mall made back-to-school shopping limited. Because of this, Doane looked for other ways to fill his wardrobe.
“Eventually me getting three or four outfits from these places turned into getting only one outfit for the same price,” Doane said.
Soon Doane started repairing clothes and selling them to friends at school. In time, he learned about the market for vintage clothing and made his career.
Natalia Kerouac’s interest in vintage started similar to Doane’s.
“We didn't grow up with a lot of money,” Natalia Kerouac said. “Out of necessity, you just learn how to find a good deal, good quality, especially in clothing, how to fix your own things, how to restore anything, and it becomes fun — you enjoy it.”
Smith said he stuck with vintage for the same reasons.
“You can promote recycling and reusing a piece that has history to it,” Smith said. “It's keeping history alive.”
Natalia Kerouac said she sees shopping vintage as a way to combat society's fashion standards contributing to waste. She believes that the "facade" of having money and never wearing the same thing twice is a factor in the fast fashion issue.
“Thinking of a piece of clothing as a little time capsule or something you can play around with, and it can always be changing because you're changing every day,” Natalia Kerouac said. “But that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy all new things. You can play around with what you have.”
Sustainability is more than recycling and reworking clothes at Throwback Outpost. It’s also about creating items that will last, according to Smith.
“We want to have the most organic item that we can," Smith said. "Back in the day, they made everything so much better than today, and those things still stand up the test of time, and the things that we want to build today, we build to stand the test of time."