Hidden Gems: This Ol' Thing Vintage sells classic Southern clothes and jewelryBy Caroline Giddis | 02/24/2016 2:03pm
Photo courtesy of Caroline Giddis.
A one-year anniversary can mean different things to different people. For Lori Watts, it means celebrating one year since first opening her dream store: This Ol’ Thing Vintage in Northport.
Located at 902 Main Ave. in what used to be an old grocery store, This Ol’ Thing Vintage is a gem hidden in plain sight. With a selection of antique jewelry, gorgeous handmade gowns and other vintage trinkets, Watts knows how to pick a good selection.
In her store, Watts tries to carry pieces that are from the mid-1900s such as the 40s, 50s or 60s decades, with some 80s outliers that sneak in occasionally. The items are all hand-selected and pulled from the racks of antique stores, vintage markets and estate sales all over the South.
“It’s really what catches my eye," Watts said. “It does have a lot to do with the design, the structure, and the quality. It’s not what you’re gonna find in the local malls or big chain stores – everything’s different. It’s all very affordable too. You’re not gonna pay Atlanta or New Orleans prices here.”
Watts grew up in Tuscaloosa and attended Alabama for a number of years before moving to New Orleans, where she discovered her love of antiques and vintage clothing. She also gained the skills it takes to become a vintage dealer. The first items she started buying and selling were records and clothes.
“I learned what to buy and learned that it’s really all about condition,” Watts said. “You could have a beautiful, hand-sewn, grandma-made dress and then you could have a Dior piece that’s just rotting. You’d rather have grandmas perfect piece.”
Now with 25 years of experience, Watts and her shop participate in and sponsor several different events throughout the year. The New Orleans Vintage Fashion & Lifestyle Expo is one Watts has enjoyed for many years, and it will be her fourth year participating in the local 5th Street Vintage Market held right in historic downtown Northport.
Although these markets may sound more traditional to vintage shopping, the event Watts is most excited about this year as a sponsor is the Birmingham Punk Rock Flea Market, located at the Saturn in Avondale on March 6.
“It’s gonna be a good day,” Watts said. “We’re happy to be a part of it. I’ll probably take things that may please a younger crowd – more 60s and 70s stuff.”
Watts, who wears a lot of vintage jewelry, such as ornate rings and a strand of cloisonné beads, said there is a lot of antique jewelry still around because it’s been well protected. The shelves of This Ol’ Thing Vintage are adorned with delicate necklaces, clip-on earrings and a few items that are over 100 years old, such as a signet ring or a portrait pin of an African-American woman and her husband. Watts uses old photographs found at markets to decorate the shop and give it an antique feel. Jewelry, bags and other adornments are what sell the most.
“Vintage is hard for a modern body to fit, so I sell more accessories than I do clothes,” Watts said. “I sell more purses, hats and belts because you can put that with a modern outfit, whereas vintage clothes on a modern body is sometimes an odd fit – we’re just broader.”
However, she said that doesn’t mean that This Ol’ Thing Vintage is lacking in beautiful dresses in all different shapes, sizes and styles.
“You see a lot of evening wear when you’re looking for vintage because a lady would have held onto a special occasion outfit like that for her entire lifetime,” Watts said.
Another part of Watt’s job is facilitating estate liquidations and sales. She has uncovered several interesting items in her time, but perhaps the one of the coolest discovery was an acetate disc recording of Elvis Presley singing “Don’t Be Cruel” to a woman named Sheila Smith. The estate owner simply handed it to her to sell not really knowing what it was.
“Long story short, I ended up selling it through Elvis Presley Enterprises at the Graceland auction back in August during Elvis Week,” Watts said. “It sold for $4,200 for my clients.”
Watts's passion for undiscovered items and vintage runs deep.
“It’s a way of expressing your own style, Watts said. “And you’re doing a little bit of good for the environment because you’re not out buying new products that are just out jamming up the world. That’s one of our mottos: to recycle fashion.”
Follow the store on Instagram at “ThisOlThingVintage” for more photos of the items that Watts discovers. The store is open Monday through Saturday noon to 4 p.m., and by appointment if you call 205-345-4763.