Vintage store owner, Elisa Vietri, is an integral part of the Little Italy community in Cleveland. For five years, she has been serving up curated vintage items, artwork, and locally made, hand-crafted products in her store, Moonstruck Cle. From experience, it is impossible to go into her space and not leave with something beautiful. So many of my most treasured vintage pieces were found at Moonstruck, and I am not alone in this sentiment. The store attracts a broad array of customers, as well as those who want just to come in and hang out on the conveniently placed “husband chairs.” This is not a pretentious vintage store; instead, you are greeted with the warm smiles of Elisa and her store assistant, Alex, and made to feel at home while you peruse the eclectic offerings.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Elisa in Moonstruck for a chat about all things vintage and owning a store. Throughout the conversation, people continued to enter. Some were regulars, while others were walking by and found themselves curious about the store with twinkly lights. And then there were the individuals who just popped in to say “hello” to Elisa herself – truly a community treasure. Everyone, welcome Elisa to the site!
On The Lessons She Learned From Her Italian Grandmother
My family didn’t have a lot, so it was very common for my Mom to purchase at garage sales and secondhand shops. It was more of a way of surviving, more than anything. Of course, when you are a child, you resist anything that your family does for you, but then you start realizing that it was a necessity and came out of caring and love. When I was a young adult, I began to appreciate the uniqueness of what I had. People would always say, “Where did you find that? Or “How did you put that together?” so it has always been a part of my life. My grandmother had taught me the value of good design, beautiful fabrics, well-made items. She was from Italy, and would only buy one or two high-quality outfits a year and then wear it all the time. I used to think, “why do they always wear the same clothes,” but they would invest in their clothing because they knew it would last longer.
On The Beginnings of A Collection
I started slowly collecting things with my Mom, mostly in the late ’70s and early ’80s. At this time, you could still find a lot of genuinely antique clothing at garage sales – everything from the Victorian Period through to the ’40s, so we would collect as much as we could. We valued what those things were, but we didn’t talk about it because it wasn’t a “cool” thing to do. I stored all my finds in my parents’ attic, where they remained for about 25 years. I had a whole career in IT, but I was still thrifting. Initially, it was more out of practicality for myself and my budget. I started realizing that there was all this cool stuff that I couldn’t use personally but was too good to pass up, so I started buying it for other people. This grew to the point where about 80% of my collection, I was never going to wear; it either wouldn’t have fitted me or was too delicate for my style. I used to wear a lot of men’s jackets, overalls, shitkicker boots, woolen shirts – I love a menswear vibe.
On Vintage Trends
Over the years, the sizes of thrift stores have just quadrupled. Thrift stores used to be little church charity stores; now, stores are giant places because we consume so much stuff. There are a lot of trends in vintage now, whereas before there weren’t trends, it was just periods. I think that is when you know it has become super popular when you see trends. When I am buying things for the store, first and foremost, I go with my gut feeling. However, I know there are certain things that I buy all the time that are always going to be popular – denim, Pendelton jackets, men’s woolens, anything plaid, tooled leather. They seem to have timeless appeal. In terms of trends, I do try to stay up-to-date as much as I can, and I can tell based on what our student clientele instantly buy.
On The Vintage Community
Little Italy is a beautiful mix of students, young professionals, retirees, people who have lived here all their lives, and tourists – people who appreciate what I am doing. There is something about vintage – even people who don’t buy it for themselves – they love to come in and say, “oh my grandmother used to have one of those” or “when I was growing up I had something like that skirt.” They love the nostalgia. I have had grown women buy tap shoes because they used to take tap lessons when they were children, and they love the idea of owning them again and maybe tap dancing in their kitchen or whatever. I think that is a big part of it; people love the idea. That being said, the most common question we get (behind where should I eat in Little Italy) is what is the history of this item? What is its story?. People want to learn about an item before they buy it. I am fascinated by the history of things, so I love being able to share what I can with buyers. To me, that is the part of vintage shopping that slows you down (in a good way!)
On The Importance of Giving Items Energy
It’s weird because something will be in the store for like two years, and I will think to myself “oh that isn’t going to sell,” and then I will pick it up, move it to a different spot and then the next person who comes in will buy it. You need to give items energy! If you provide something with energy and attention, it will draw other people to it. I am a real firm believer in that, and we pay attention to the energy in the store. We have tingsha bells on the door because when they ring, it clears the energy in the room.
On The Power Of A Vision Book
I had a vision scrapbook for many years – probably close to 18 years – which I would fill with notes and pictures related to my dream of having a retail space focused on vintage. So when it came time to have the store, I had a really specific vision of what I wanted it to be. When I first came into this space, I knew it was the right place. One of the big things in my vision book was I wanted to be part of a community, and I wanted to have a place where people could feel like they could come and hang out. I didn’t want it to be solely about buying stuff. We have always tried to make it a safe, welcoming space for anyone, even if they don’t want to purchase anything. Ultimately, the one thing that has not come to pass from my dream book (yet) is to have a workspace where people who typically work-from-home can come to sit, have a coffee, work, maybe collaborate. Someday that will happen!
Thank you so much, Elisa!
+ For vintage outfit inspiration, check out our “Week of Outfits” ladies.
+ My top tips for thrifting.
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