News

Vintage shop owner trying Mountain View on for size

By Melissa Landeros

Tiffany Gush, owner of Empire Vintage Clothing in Mountain View, sat quietly on her new shop's floor wearing a bright shawl in hues of green, orange and yellow over a faded black dress. She wrote her current sales of the day on a white board leaning against an enclosed case filled with unique sunglasses.

Owning a vintage store was her lifelong dream, Gush said. Her merchandise is a curated collection of items that reflect her personal style. She handpicks pieces that fall under her criteria of being "old and unusual," in hopes that her customers will also like them.

For four years, Empire Vintage Clothing was up and running in Palo Alto on Waverley Street. According to Gush, downtown Palo Alto began to change after a some large companies moved in and several office buildings were constructed. These shifts resulted in a significant increase in rent that prompted Gush to relocate.

"I was paying my own personal salary to my landlord," she said. "My rent went up 35 percent."

For nine months Gush said she was scraping by trying to pay her rent. She said her landlord was unwilling to compromise on the high rate he asking.

She recalled feeling like a failure and asking herself why she couldn't make things work in her own town. She grew up in Palo Alto, and her mother owned an antique shop on Forest and High streets. Gush said that her love of all things old and vintage stemmed from that shop.

It was "heartbreaking" to give up her Palo Alto location, but she wasn't willing to give up on her business, she said.

"Being an entrepreneur is in my blood," she said. "I just want to be successful and have fun doing it."

As of February, Empire Vintage relocated to downtown Mountain View at 831 Villa Street. Gush describes her move as ultimately beneficial, because now she is surrounded by independent, small and local businesses. It is an area immersed with young people, which is a better match for her and her customers, she said.

"It's an up-and-coming hipster central," Gush said. "Mountain View is really changing, Villa Street is really popular."

Discovering the new location was a moment of serendipity. One morning Gush decided to drive down Villa Street and saw a "for rent sign," that had been put up the night before.

"That building is the biggest eyesore on the block, but I think she is a diamond in the rough," Gush said.

After negotiating with her new landlord, Empire Vintage Clothing was back in business with the help of Gush's two sales associates. Gush's background in interior design helped with the revitalization of the 85-year-old space, which took about a month, she said.

The shop carries unique vintage items dating back to the 1940s and up until the 1980s. Her selection includes a mix of everyday wear for men and women, as well as an array of costumes that fall under styles like "pin-up," "1980s prom" and "Mad Men."

"It's a funky, fun and playful place; it doesn't take itself too seriously," said Gretchen Curtis, who described herself as a regular customer. "You can find something extremely unique, and you can guarantee no one will have what you are wearing."

Curtis said she was attracted to Empire Vintage because it was the only vintage shop in the Palo Alto area. She followed it to Mountain View, and said she likes to visit the shop to search for party dresses.

Gush said that her customers are usually looking for vintage items that mimic mainstream fashion. Crop tops usually don't remain in the store for very long, because they look like something that could be found in stores like American Apparel or Free People.

"And they are a fraction of the price," she said.

While Gush said business has dipped a bit since relocating, she has plans to rent some space adjacent to her shop to artists and artisans, where they can sell their wares.

"It's a big ship, I just happen to be steering the wheel," Gush said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 18, 2014 at 9:25 am

maybe she should transport her things to disneyland and so-cal entertainment amusement parks. this seems to be ambitious. mountain view is a curious choice for this location. wish this person well


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Puke
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

"It's an up-and-coming hipster central," Gush said. "Mountain View is really changing, Villa Street is really popular."

Haven't read anything more nauseating on mv-voice in some time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pam
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Goodness - these comments are just awful!! who are these people?? 90 year old republicans?? Mountain View has always been eclectic and we love it that way.....get with it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Aug 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

@Pam -- these comment boards have always been filled with nasty comments like the ones you commented on. Guess some people just have to be who they are.

And as to your point: Mountain View has always had stores that were a bit *different*. Our gain, Palo Alto's loss.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Charlene
a resident of Castro City
on Aug 18, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Charlene is a registered user.

I love this store!! The best to you, Tiffany. I wish you much success!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I'm looking forward to shopping in this unique store, especially if it really has vintage "Empire" dresses. I love 'em. They're a hard style to find much of these days. Great fun to check out places that are one of a kind.

And glad someone who would call themselves "Puke" won't be interested in being any where in the area.

At present, South Castro Street is similar to its other end, which also grew up naturally with unique places to eat and such. Too bad its best places to sit out and enjoy the outdoors are being shifted to El Camino Real instead, so they can be replaced with stack up housing. Soon to be a boring street, with people always watching you from above. It is city approved, planned death to an area as enjoyable as Villa Street or Castro Street near the tracks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm

It's a unique, charming store, filled with all sorts of treasures. We shopped at the Palo Alto location and are thrilled to see they are now in Mountain View. It's a great addition to our downtown!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cassie
a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 19, 2014 at 9:54 am

A couple of these comments makes me wonder if some people got up on the wrong side of the bed. Good luck to you Tiffany.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I like the idea of shop like the above opening up in Downtown, so we are going a little hip. It sounds like a fun store, hope to see more in the future. I don't see anything wrong with retailers picking Mountain View for a place to open. More retail like the one above will draw more retail.

Or do we shop at Wal Mart?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 20, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I drove by there yesterday. Looked great. But I couldn't find any parking. Too bad the City of Mountain View has seen fit to reduce how much parking it provides, so small businesses are the ones getting hurt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Think before writing
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Linda, your comment is the equivalent of "nobody drives anymore because there's too much traffic".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Linda Empire is open late. Same as it was in Palo Alto.

I know most people who post here are locked up at home by 9pm, so not everyone would be aware.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

As for me, I've been boycotting Mt View since Liberty House became JC Penney.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm

What does a small store owner have to do with Penny's? Why make her pay? Oh, I get it, you are just spoiling for an argument.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:36 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Linda did you miss the posts (including your own??) about shopping in Mt View.

And also you have missed that you can eat outside at Starbucks, Crepevine, New Mongolian, Bierhaus, Spica, Park Balluci, Amicis, Cafe Baklava, Los Charros, Blue Line, Scott's/whatever scotts will be presumably, Cascal, Le Boulanger, whatever that place is next to Le Boulanger, Posh Bagel, Saskoon, Ava's Downtown Market, Mediterranean Grill, Queen House/Tea place, Don Giovanni, St Stevens Green, Gyros House, Ephesus, La Fontaine, Shabuway (NOT Subway), Amarin, Blue Line, Doppio Zero, Xahn, Vaso Azzuro, Olympus ...and a few others on and off Castro I'm sure I've missed....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Male Apricot
a resident of Bailey Park
on Aug 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Sparty, your boycott hasn't appeared to have any noticeable effect on the rest of us, but at least you have not decided to boycott Mountain View's news and issues. That shows you have an interest so glad you're hear to add to the fabric of the Mountain View quilt, so to speak


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Thanks male apricot. Apparently sarcasm has no noticeable effect on you either.


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