Alabama Vintage Clothing Store Makes Retro Styles Hot, Cool, and New

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For him, the hunt is the best part. And as the owner of a vintage clothing store, called Goody Vault, Emanuel Edwards is always on the lookout for new pieces (for him) to stock. “I look for pieces that somehow speak to me,” says Edwards. “Whether it’s the buttons, the seams, the color, the fading, the wear.”

To find items for Goody Vault, which is located on the west side of Huntsville, he searches online and visits military surplus stores and second-hand Scottsboro retailer Unclaimed Baggage. Edwards also buys clothes from people who bring interesting pieces into the store to sell. And once a term, he travels to a different city beyond Alabama, such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Oklahoma City. “Go to town, dig everywhere, meet people and try to buy and find the best things,” says Edwards.

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About two and a half years after Goody Vault started in a downtown small business incubator, vintage clothing has become more than a business for Edwards. “It’s a matter of lifestyle. This is my world that I live in. Goody Vault moved into its current dig, a 2801 Governors Drive SW space that was previously a jujitsu studio, in September 2021. Edwards shares the building with local clothing designer/retailer “DapperDude,” aka Derrick Ramey Jr.

Unlike many vintage stores haphazardly filled with as many old things as possible, Goody Vault is meticulously curated by Edwards. In the shop, he favors three categories of vintage: military vintage, workwear and sportswear.

“One thing I had to keep in mind was not to overload the space with too much stuff. It takes everything away,” says Edwards, whose friends often call him Manny. taste, to give you a variety of pieces, but presented in a way where you are not overwhelmed. You want to keep it as minimal as possible, but enough to keep you engaged in research for a while. It’s always a balance. In addition to the shop, he also ensures the stock in the warehouse, at home and in a back office of the shop. You can also browse merchandise online at thegoodyvault.com.

Emanuel Edwards, owner of Goody Vault, a vintage clothing store in Huntsville, Ala. (Courtesy of Brandon Roberts)

Originally from Chicago, Edwards’ mother moved them to Huntsville in search of a “perfect place to raise a family,” he says. Growing up here, he attended schools such as Morris Elementary, Westlawn Middle, and Oakwood Adventist Academy, before graduating from Oakwood University.

Today, Edwards’ personal collection of vintage clothing includes an early ’90s gold t-shirt emblazoned with “Lake Michigan” text. This shirt has a special value for him because it belonged to his mother, who has since died.

Edwards has always loved clothes, although for most of his life it was New clothes. Sharp blazers, button down shirts and slacks. His previous career was in sales with the US military, “helping our foreign partners, foreign governments, to strengthen their defense systems.” He is now using the experience from that Army gig with Goody Vault, especially in relationship building, which is crucial for sourcing vintage clothing.

Edwards’ dress sense initially eschewed vintage by scrolling through Instagram and going for retro looks on this social media platform he thought was cool. His interest intensified after a trip to New York in 2015. There he shopped at Wooden Sleepers, a now-defunct Red Hook, the Brooklyn retailer’s GQ magazine has been described as “the best new store vintage from New York”. Edwards was impressed with the way Wooden Sleepers owner Brian Davis “presented some really amazing pieces in a way where it’s a bit artistic and almost museum-like. Visiting this store made me think of doing something like this.

Goody Vault

Emma Steelman, a goldsmith and nonprofit director based in Huntsville, Alabama, shops for vintage clothing at local store Goody Vault. (Courtesy of Emma Steelman)

Huntsville resident Emma Steelman has been shopping at Goody Vault for a few years or so. Before getting into vintage, she mainly bought clothes at the mall and at Target because it was “easy and accessible”. Then around 2020, Steelman, a silversmith and nonprofit executive director by trade, began to think more about the kinds of industries she was supporting by buying “fast fashion” clothing. “And I was intrigued by the idea of ​​buying vintage because it’s more durable,” Steelman says. “It saves clothes from being thrown in the trash or going to landfills.”

Steelman was also beginning to further develop his personal style. But at the time, she couldn’t find a vintage store in Huntsville that wasn’t overcrowded and under-filtered… Until she found Goody Vault on Instagram, then checked out the store’s original location at downtown and meets Edwards.

“I was blown away,” Steelman says. “I had never experienced anything quite like her shop in Huntsville.” She had been to vintage shops in Birmingham, Atlanta and Nashville, but “it was like all was in these stores. Thousands of clothes. And when trying to figure out your vibe and style, it can be really overwhelming to go through a store that has so many options. What I really liked about Manny’s shop is that he has such a good eye for vintage that is very wearable, yet extremely unique. In her shop, it is so easy to create complete looks and outfits thanks to the quality of her conservation. »

Along with the environmental benefits, Steelman says that by buying vintage, “you can really find some amazing pieces to set your wardrobe apart from everyone else’s, which I think is really fun.” She particularly likes a 1950s military mechanic jumpsuit she picked up at Goody Vault. At Edwards’ suggestion, she tried it, though she wasn’t sure if it would work for her.

Goody Vault

Huntsville resident Emma Steelman wears vintage clothes she found at the local Goody Vault store. (Courtesy of Emma Steelman)

“That’s when I found my style,” Steelman says. “I tried it and was so excited.” She realized how much she loved wearing military green clothes, and this shade quickly became the new neutral in her wardrobe. From Goody Vault, she also acquired military green pants that she will wear instead of blue jeans. Steelman now owns several jumpsuits, which she likes to accessorize with a graphic bandana and pink Vans slip-on sneakers. It’s an outfit she feels good wearing everywhere, from grocery shopping to advocacy meetings.

Sanders Clayton is another frequent Good Vault customer and, like Steelman, was also initially drawn to vintage out of wanting to be more environmentally conscious. An elementary school teacher, Clayton learned about Goody Vault through friends who owned a local cafe who had hosted a pop-up for Edwards. (Pop-ups are a big part of Goody Vault’s business. Edwards often travels to places like Atlanta — and even as far away as the famous Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena, Calif. — to make pop-ups. and also pick up new pieces to bring back for the shop.)

Clayton found 1940s denim at Goody Vault “it’s really amazing,” including a denim jacket and a second biker-style jacket with patches. She also bought 70s Coca-Cola uniform shirts and vintage t-shirts. Clayton usually wears her vintage clothes on the weekends, like going out to dinner with friends. “It’s interesting to see how versatile he can be,” says Clayton. “You can pair a vintage jacket with really nice pants and a nice shirt and dress it up, and you can wear a nice pair of vintage denim with a t-shirt and be casual.”

Through Edwards, Clayton became interested in the history of Goody Vault clothing. While researching his family history, Clayton learned that his grandfathers worked for railroads, stockyards, and butchers in Chicago. “Tough, durable clothing was essential for these people,” says Edwards. “They couldn’t afford to be able to buy clothes all the time. So that kind of stuff really inspires me.

Although he also likes newer pieces, Edwards is often drawn to clothes from the 40s, 50s and 60s, especially work shirts with chain stitches. “He also likes old chambray shirts, especially if there’s an intriguing patina, like fading where the overalls were worn with the shirt back in the day. Another recent favorite is a World War II alpaca fur-lined N-1 military deck jacket. “I mean, you think about the stories that are locked away in the threads,” Edwards says. “If these songs could talk…”

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