If you’ve been tooling around local Instagram accounts lately, you may have noticed a new and very cool account popping up in your "explore" section. Arlee Park is a south Minneapolis shop filled with unique home furnishings, such as gorgeous vintage rugs and wicker furniture, and breezy, summery casual vintage clothing, including an enviable collection of cutoff Levi’s jeans.
Basically, you can outfit your entire life, from your walls to your bod, at Arlee.
We chatted with Jamie Hewitt Budnick, who runs the shop with her twin sister, Ashley Hewitt Lemke, about where they source their wares and the importance of reusing and repurposing thrifted and vintage finds.
City Pages: What was the impetous for turning your Etsy store into brick-and-mortar business?
Jamie Hewitt Budnick: After we discovered that people were loving and purchasing the pieces we listed, we had a discussion about Arlee Park and the void it could fill in the Twin Cities. There are without a doubt plenty of fantastic vintage stores here, so it wasn’t like we were doing something that’s never been done before. We just felt that having a specifically curated vintage store with the items we had been collecting would set us apart... So we started looking for a retail space in December and signed our lease right at the end of that month.
CP: Your shop is super instagrammable. What inspires you?
JHB: Thank you! Instagram itself throws inspiration right in your face. Traveling is what really inspires us, but when we aren’t doing that, we surround ourselves with an amazing community of creatives, from photographers to other shop and small business owners... If you can surround yourself with like-minded business owners, inspiration isn’t hard to find.
CP: Where do you source your goods from? You have an enviable collection of amazing rugs, for example.
JHB: Honestly, there isn’t an avenue we haven’t explored to find our goods: garage sales, auctions, estate sales, Craigslist, even purchasing items from customers that come in the store. We’ve done it all. A heavy majority of our inventory is from local thrift stores. Rugs are a bit harder to come by at thrift stores, but it has happened, and it’s the best thing ever.
CP: It seems like a lot of Arlee Park’s goods are vintage pieces that are meant to be reused and loved again and again – especially classics like Levi’s cutoffs.
JHB: Eco-conscious is our jam! Everything we source for our store is secondhand, and most of the secondhand pieces are vintage. We have a specific selection of modern pieces, which we’ve hand-selected by makers and doers. It goes without saying how important it is to recycle, so the secondhand pieces are the main focus of our store because we want people to do just that: reuse. If this is at least one way our customers are making an effort to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle, we’re happy about that. Everyone should know it doesn’t happen overnight. These changes can be made little by little.
CP: How do you balance pairing vintage pieces with modern pieces in your closet and home?
JHB: We really feel that’s one thing Arlee Park sets out to do: To show people how to use vintage in a modern setting... Besides our mattresses, couches, and dining ware, everything else in our homes are either thrifted or passed down in our family on both ours and our husbands’ sides of the family. We both don’t get very attached to stuff, so we’re pretty mindful about what we purchase.
CP: Why do you think people are opting for thrifted and vintage pieces so much these days? Could it be tied to the recent backlash against fast fashion?
JHB: Brands [can] capitalize on having stylish pieces at an affordable price, which is appealing to, well, everyone. But like anything else, there are unknown long-term effects that people aren’t immediately aware of. Once people are educated about the synthetic materials -- how these low-quality pieces pile up in landfills, the harsh labor conditions, and so forth -- hopefully they'll be more conscious about what they are supporting.
As a society, we are becoming more informed on the impact of fast fashion, but whether you care to believe it is entirely up to you. We hope we unveil a fresh perspective on how to use thrifted pieces and it will inspire others to slowly make a lifestyle change to give these items a second, or maybe even a third, chance.
Arlee Park is located at 3000 East 50th Street in Minneapolis.