Tucked away on Fourth Street between Cherry and Junipero, there is a mecca for fashion enthusiasts with a love for vintage. Known as Retro Row, the Fourth Street corridor is a time machine where shoppers can get a glimpse of the past.
Meow Vintage has been in existence since 1986 and has become a one-stop shop for retro fashion connoisseurs as the longest-standing store on Retro Row. Although its neon signs can be hard to see in the Long Beach sun, the store’s retro décor is hard to miss.
Owner Kathleen Schaff’s expertise in vintage fashion is apparent through her curation, as she has decorated the store to resemble a vintage department store, complete with vintage mannequins and funky neon signs. She has been into vintage fashion since childhood and within her store shoppers can find garments from the 1940s to the 2000s.
Schaff believes the rising interest in vintage clothes within the younger generation comes from consumers becoming more conscious of the unsustainability of modern fashion.
“During the pandemic, a lot of people looked into their closets and saw how much crap they bought at the mall,” Schaff said. “Younger people are leading the way to educate people that they don’t want to live the way we have.”
Meow Vintage specializes in vintage deadstock clothing that is handpicked and curated by Schaff.
Deadstock refers to a garment that has never been worn. To find clothes from decades ago that have never been worn, shop owners attend warehouse sales and estate sales. As time passes, these garments are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
Sneaky Tiki Boutique, located a couple of doors down, also specializes in vintage deadstock fashion. As soon as shoppers walk in, the aura of rock and roll can be felt as vintage band tees hang from racks alongside wide-legged sturdy denim jeans. Vintage motorcycle boots sit on the shelves, and the walls are covered with vintage Hawaiian shirts.
Sneaky Tiki Boutique specializes in 1950s and 1960s clothes. The owner, Nick Barnes, looks for clothes from the era that have been well preserved. He buys many of his products at warehouse sales, where clothing produced decades ago has sat untouched.
Further down the street is Old Gold Boutique, a quaint, woman-owned boutique specializing in women’s vintage clothing and personal styling. Always wanting to own a store, Bridgette Thompson opened the story around 2018 after living in Long Beach for 9 years. She chose Retro Row as a location because of the wide array of customers she sees shopping on the street.
“All kinds of people,” Thompson said regarding her demographic of customers. “Younger kids starting their shopping journey, which is cool, and older people who actually wore the clothes I collect.”
Her favorite era of fashion is the 1960s to the 1970s, and she tirelessly searches for clothes from these decades on the internet, in thrift stores and at estate sales. She likes the variety of vintage, which allows wearers to figure out their personal style.
Far Outfit, owned by Johanna Moynahan, opened in 2015 on Retro Row where Moynahan had worked as a teen. She was inspired by her former boss who used to own a store on Retro Row.
“I really wanted to recycle clothes, I wanted to do something more important than just working for a company,” Moynahan said.
Moynahan took the name of the store from her husband’s band and it perfectly describes the vibe of her store: far out, as the store is full of oddities and campy décor.
While Moynahan opened an online store during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she does not like to sell online. Stepping into her store is an experience and the clothes she gives a second life to are the centerpiece.
Finally, as shoppers reach the end of Retro Row, they can make their final stop at Native Sol, owned by May Salem and Tyrone Ward. Native Sol was initially founded as a lifestyle brand meant to reflect Salem and Ward’s natural lifestyle.
Salem and Ward opened their first store in Long Beach’s East Village. Although they have lived near Retro Row, it was hard to get a location there due to high property demand. However, they were able to move their storefront to Retro Row in 2016.
As Native Sol began to grow, vintage clothing became a bigger part of the brand because of its sustainability, which Salem believes ties in closely with the ethos of Native Sol.
“Vintage is a big part of our shop now because it’s really sustainable, more than buying an organic fabric because it had to be made, whereas Vintage is already there,” Salem said. “It’s recycling, upcycling, giving it a new life span, and most vintage pieces last longer than fast fashion pieces. So you see vintage pieces still circulating.”
The store also features products from local artisans and indigenous artists. To Salem and Ward, community is important and part of the reason they opened their store in Long Beach.
All of these businesses have a unique identity and are only a glimpse into what Retro Tow has to offer—a complete list of stores on Retro Row can be found on the Retro Row website.