Being Thrifty is Nifty When You Shop at Springfield Vintage
By Tara L. Cale
Linda Renehan grew up in a super thrifty family. Her clothing was hand-me-downs from her cousins, including her three pairs of shoes.
“Back then, you had shoes for church, shoes for school – and the ones that were worn out, maybe your toe was sticking through or the sole was coming off – that’s what you wore outside to play,” she said.
Linda’s father was the local garbage collector. Which, to young Linda, was a treat.
“He was constantly bringing home new toys, new furniture, new this and new that,” she explained. “Of course it wasn’t new.
It was being thrown out by someone. But often the items were better than what we had, and dad would throw it in the cab and bring it home.”
So Linda grew up appreciating how to recycle and reuse. And although she has a Master’s Degree in Physical Education, was a former Division 1 collegiate athlete and coach, and taught aerobics and personally trained for over 45 years, today she makes her living by doing what she loves – reusing and recycling, via her store, Springfield Vintage.
Linda started this voyage in the ’90s, doing shows on weekends, with her collection of antiques and vintage items.
“I had a high-stress job in management and worked about 60 hours a week,” she said, “But I tried to take a couple of weekends off each month and take my collections to markets in Chicago, Bloomington, and other areas.”
She continued working her day job and doing markets on weekends until 2007-2008 when The Great Recession changed everything.
“Traveling became harder and antiquing really changed. Being thrifty became a necessity,” she said. “That’s when I began concentrating more on vintage-recycling and reusing products from the past. It was an instant hit.”
While partnering with another vintage vendor for a short period of time Linda began looking for a place of her own. She found the perfect place for her vision in November of 2016 at 215 S. 5th Street in Springfield. The building was home to Bridge Jewelers for over 90 years. The last remodeling was done in the 1940s.
There were 25 showcases with glass doors and three safes. The glass doors had to be removed from the showcases to display Linda’s type of product and Linda personally carried them all (25 x 2 = 50 heavy sliding glass doors) to the basement herself. After that, and some other updates to the interior, Springfield Vintage opened to the public. Springfield Vintage touts “A touch of the ‘40s through a touch of the ‘’80s” and the description could not be more perfect. There is clothing, jewelry, accessories, furniture, housewares, and more – retro and vintage – leaning towards mid-century. Furniture doesn’t last long though. Actually, nothing does. If you see something you are even remotely interested in, buy it on the spot. It won’t be there next time. While we were there doing the interview for the story, Tony and an early morning shopper at Springfield Vintage quickly got comfortable with each other on a first-name basis, and began bartering over who was going to get which item, as ironically, they were both interested in several of the same things. Both conceded to the other randomly, and I think we all left satisfied with our purchases. Another customer came in looking at some vintage Christmas decorations. He said he would think about it and possibly be back. Well, if he comes back, it will be too late. The next customer through the door bought the very items he was considering. Linda says this happens all the time.
“We have a lot of hard-to-find items in our inventory, and certainly many one-of-a-kinds. There is not another store like this around, and we will not be able to restock these items once they are sold, so if you see it, if you like it, you better buy it!” she explained.
The selection of merchandise at Springfield Vintage is highly curated. Visitors from all over the world stop by on a regular basis to purchase items, or just get their photo taken with Linda, or next to one of the many displays.
“It helps that I’m right on Route 66,” Linda laughed.
Truly, shopping at Springfield Vintage is probably THE most unique shopping experience you will ever have. The store and atmosphere are colorful and fun.
Music from the eras represented plays in the background. Linda herself is always dressed in a fun vintage ensemble and literally bounces (perhaps her gymnast background) about the store, making sure everyone is finding what they are looking for, or at least having fun browsing. There is even a ‘bored husband’ section! I can’t even imagine anyone looking there, because every time I am at Springfield Vintage, the men are just as ‘over the moon’ about the selection as the women.
But one thing I can almost guarantee, whether you buy anything or not, you will leave the store smiling.
“If you are interested in dressing vintage, but really don’t know how, I’d love to show you,” Linda exclaimed. “We love playing dress-up here. And having fun.”
Indeed they do. Doing normal years (aka NOT 2020 during COVID-19) she hosts a variety of events including a vintage fashion show, the Vintage Love Shop Hop, Virtual Cash Mobs, and more. Last year they had an event called “She’s Blooming Awesome” where five other vendors set up inside the store. Everything offered had a floral theme, and all businesses were owned by women. One pop-up was a vendor selling floral-infused beverages. There was a flower bar, where you could create your own floral arrangement. A local bakery brought in flower-shaped cookies.
“We like to be different. We are always affordable,” Linda said. “I like to say we are fun, not fancy.”
That may be one of the reasons that Springfield Vintage has been voted the Best Antique/Vintage Store in Springfield for several years by readers of the Illinois Times.
Linda also emphasized that items at Springfield Vintage lean towards useful, instead of collectible. For instance, our purchase that day included a vintage recipe book for crockpot meals and an electric knife. Yes, there are some knick-knacks, but they would be more accurately classified as vintage home decor. Another thing that caught my eye was vintage “hankies”. I actually didn’t know until that day that anyone other than my mother’s side of the family called cloth handkerchiefs “hankies”! Some were included in my purchase.
Springfield Vintage may be the “Best Antique/Vintage Store in Springfield,” but to many shoppers, the accolades go farther than that. Even film companies shop Springfield Vintage for props. Recently the owners of @elsewherevintage and @joyridevintage from Orange Country, California were picking the Midwest and found Springfield Vintage. They did not leave empty-handed!
As an added bonus, if you are interested in having, or shooting, a vintage photoshoot, the apartment above Springfield Vintage is the perfect location, and in fact, is used for that often. The apartment has not been updated. The paint is chipping, there is trash on the floor, doors are falling off the hinges and wallpaper is peeling. Pair it with a vintage outfit from Springfield Vintage, and you have yourself an award-winning photo shoot.
Seriously. Many photographers have used this venue for their work.
Springfield Vintage is located at 215 S. 5th Street in… yep… Springfield. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am-5 pm, or by appointment. Although Springfield Vintage requires social distancing and masks, if you still do not feel comfortable, Linda would be happy to set up a private shopping appointment for you. Call or text her at 217-652-8413.
Now I’m going to throw in a few more perks for you to shop at Springfield Vintage. They are located just 1/2 block from the Old Capitol – you know, where the farmer’s markets, holiday markets, and other events are held. The last Old Capitol Holiday Market will be Saturday, December 19 from 9 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Springfield Vintage will also be open during the Old Capitol Holiday Walks, held through December 19 every Wednesday from 5-8 pm, and every Saturday from 1-7 pm. Visit www.downtownspringfield.org to find out how you could win $1,000 during the holiday walks. There are many other small, unique, locally-owned shops, plus restaurants, located within walking distance of Springfield Vintage. In fact, right next door to Springfield Vintage is the restaurant that was recently voted the best new restaurant in downtown Springfield, JerkShopGo. Place an order, head next door to Springfield Vintage to shop, and JerkShopGo will bring your order over when it’s ready. And remember, don’t feed the parking meters that line the streets in downtown Springfield either. Parking is free in Springfield, at least through the end of the year. You never know what fun, special event, or sale Linda will be having. So make sure to find, like, and follow Springfield Vintage on Facebook for more information and to keep updated on new arrivals, special events, and more.
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