Visionary Vintage Vendors

Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024

By Ava Mayo

With the pandemic resulting in the closure of many traditional mom and pop stores 2022 was a hesitant time for aspiring business owners. However, for Durham locals, Garret Young-Wright and Aaron Wan, the pandemic proved an opportune time to invest in a future devoted to wears of the past.

One of the many facets of the pandemic was the opportunity for niche startups to establish themselves through a strong online presence. Secondhand Concession, the vintage pop-up co-founded by Young-Wright and Wan, exemplifies this virtual business model.

While they had been involved in the resale game since their undergraduate years at UNC-Chapel Hill, the pandemic presented an opportunity to devote full-time energy to the activity. In 2021, the business partners founded Secondhand Concession Stand, a move  that proved advantageous given the influx of pandemic-induced online shopping and the algorithmic engagement of vintage enthusiasts.“It was a plan we had regardless, but I do think the pandemic helped. Just the whole kind of collector scene, you know, even with things like random baseball cards, and antiques, everything kind of shot up, Young-Wright said.”

With a growing customer-base established and a more stable economy post-pandemic, the pair were provided with a unique opportunity to explore and perfect their business model. . In-person operations were limited to craft markets and art fairs local to the triangle, which yielded a variety of clientele, but highlighted a clear gap in the community for vintage markets.

“We wanted to step into that space and give an opportunity for other retailers that we had met, to kind of have a place where, hey, these people are coming for vintage, they know what they’re looking for,” said Young-Wright.To the young entrepreneur, it was clear that he and his partner had landed on a prime opportunity to forge a new community.

In January of 2022, the first Vintage Bazaar was held. With 60 vendors and a 50,000 square foot venue, the event garnered 2500 vintage enthusiasts: a turnout that was indication alone of the demand for vintage resale.

In just its second year of operation, the number of vendors has nearly tripled to 170, and the attendance has grown to more than  8000 people over the course of two days. These numbers, which Young-Wright believes are indicative of a larger shift in the market demand for vintage apparel, show that, in his words, “Just from an interest standpoint, I think a lot more people are getting hip to it…I think it’s starting to get more mainstream, which I think is great for not only us, but for sustainability standpoint.”

The Vintage Bazaar, while emblematic of change, possesses an element of community rooted in its business ethos. The marketing for the event has specific outreach within the Triangle, putting emphasis on the brand to prioritize secondhand fan wear for local North Carolina teams like UNC, Duke and NC State. “We do a lot with the Duke students. So, continuing to kind of, it’s nice to kind of get fresh faces when people graduate, we get new students every year, said ?.”

While Secondhand Concession and Vintage Bazaar are both sustained and supported by their communities, the community they have fostered are just as valuable. 

In the aftermath of a successful Bazaar, Young-Wright feels most rewarded by feedback from the vendors. “I think a lot of them, you know, are entrepreneurs and small businesses just like us. So, hearing from them, you know, you helped us pay our rent or this was such a great event or had such a good time. That’s super rewarding for us, he said.”

The convention model platform offers many small and like-minded resale businesses to find their own voices and brand presence. As Secondhand Concession grows, they hope to uplift fellow vintage curators. “We’re trying to shine light and give exposure to some of those other brands… we’re bringing those customers to them and bringing them exposure, said ?.”

Looking to the future, Young-Wright is not daunted by the evolving landscape of Durham. A desire to build a community  amidst this change has remained strong given the large influx of people. With the popularity they have observed in its  few years of operation, The Vintage Bazaar is finding its footing by remaining authentic to its mission to deliver and curate a space for people with an aligned passion.

“Durham definitely has, you know, great character and great history. I think it’s a great place to be,” said Young-Wright.