Where retro is fashionable: Retro Genie turns 10

  • Items including a 1950s hat, center, at the store which turned 10 last month. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A 1960s Gerald Thurston lamp at Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A Vera scarf , at Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jeannie Mulvey, owner of Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories, handles a 1970s San Francisco Shirt Works top June 29, 2018 at the Northampton business. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Jeannie Mulvey, owner of Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories, displays a floral hat from the 1950s at the Northampton business. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A late 1960s dress paired with an early 1970s floppy hat is on display June 29, 2018 at Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • At far left, a 1940s Art Deco chandelier is displayed June 29 at Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories in Northampton. At left is a Vera scarf.

  • Jeannie Mulvey, owner of Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories, displays a 1956 Lord & Taylor poodle skirt at the Northampton business. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The exterior of Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

Published: 7/8/2018 8:12:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Jeannie Mulvey, a child of the 1970s, has been a fan of vintage fashion since her father took her to her first vintage store when she was a teenager and she started wearing his coats.

Ten years ago, however, she decided to make vintage her career.

“It’s really like my whole life,” said Mulvey, who notes that even her towels are vintage now.

Mulvey owns Retro Genie Vintage Clothing and Accessories, a Bridge Street retail shop that last month marked its 10th year in business.

Mulvey started the business after purchasing the vintage shop Better Yet on Market Street, in anticipation of being laid off from American Airline’s reservation services, where she worked for more than two decades.

“I just decided I’d take a chance,” she said.

Retro Genie sells everything from men’s and women’s vintage clothing to furniture, jewelry and accessories — with most pieces ranging from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Mulvey said her business has been going well, a blessing she credits in part to shows like “Mad Men” and the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Mulvey also sells to costumers for television and movies, including to a company working on the upcoming Netflix movie “The Irishman” starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Other customers include vintage shops in larger American cities, and buyers for vintage shops in Japan.

“The ones from the big cities really appreciate her prices and selection,” said Julie Zuckman, a friend and business associate.

Asked about the difference between buying from her vintage shop and buying from a second-hand retailer like the Salvation Army and the Goodwill, Mulvey and Zuckman noted the curated nature of the shop. They also pointed out that Mulvey herself doesn’t get her items from second-hand retailers, instead buying them directly from individuals and estate sales.

“She’s privy to people’s personal aesthetics,” Zuckman said.

Stories behind the clothes

Mulvey isn’t just content to purchase the items, however.

“I like learning about the person who had the stuff,” she said.

Asked about a red dress hanging in her shop, she said that it once belonged to a woman whose husband was a Naval officer in World War II.

“She used to go to a lot of balls,” Mulvey said. “This was one of her favorite dresses.”

Mulvey learned this when she bought the dress from the woman’s husband after she died.

Another item in the store is a poodle skirt, with an actual poodle design sewn on it. Mulvey said that she had multiple meetings with the woman who owned it before the woman agreed to part with it prior to moving to Arizona.

“You have to work for this stuff,” Zuckman said.

Some of the more flamboyant hats at Retro Genie belonged to a woman who used to plan events in New York City in the 1940s, before falling in love with a man who owned a construction business and moving with him to western Massachusetts, where they ended up making a home in Gill.

“People used to go to church every Sunday to see what Helen was wearing,” said Mulvey.

Mulvey also still keeps one of Helen’s jumpsuits for herself. “I can’t bear to sell it,” she said.

Another customer sold Mulvey a giant pair of decorative horns, prior to moving into senior housing, as she wasn’t able to take them with her.

Still, Mulvey doesn’t always get everything she wants. One of the items at Retro Genie is a vintage Star Wars Landspeeder toy. When she picked it up, there was also a vintage Luke Skywalker action figure, but a little boy had gotten to it first and she couldn’t bear to take it away from him.

Another cool item Mulvey has picked up is a 1930s autograph jacket, which she found in an old box and sold to a Japanese vintage dealer. Autograph jackets were designed to have people write on them, and also served as a canvass for charms and pins.

“It was one of the very first teenage garments,” said Zuckman.

Mulvey said that she tends to keep a lot less items in her home than when she was starting out. As it is, however, a number of items will move from her home to the shop.

“A lot of times I rotate things,” she said.

Relationships key

Mulvey also noted the relationships she has with her customers, both buyers and sellers. She said that some of those that sell to her also have an interest in who is buying their former possessions.

“Some people want to see pictures of who’s buying their things,” she said.

Mulvey also does events, including a regular holiday fashion show, where customers can earn a discount if they model vintage clothing. She also did an event where she raised money for Safe Passage, and is looking to do so again.

Zuckman originally met Mulvey when she was selling her mother’s stuff. Then, after some time, she returned.

“I kind of floated in here one day and never left,” Zuckman said.

“She likes to vacuum, which is really good,” said Mulvey, who also noted that Zuckman is skilled at putting together displays.

Zuckman also handles public relations for the business, putting the skills she had in her old line of work to use.

Mulvey said that while she used to hate old things like Frank Sinatra music and going antiquing with her parents, she now loves them.

“All things old are cool again,” she said.

She also said that running a vintage store hasn’t diminished her love and appreciation for vintage things.

“I’m not tired of it yet,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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