If you’re seeking Utopia, you better look fast. The Main Street, Vineyard Haven, store by that name popped up in February, and will be winding up its short tenure after this weekend.
Owner Nan Byrne stocks vintage clothes, a few knickknacks, and a small sampling of art. The focus is on the clothing — a selection covering a range of eras from the 1950s to ’80s. The clothes — both fun and nostalgic to classics and designer labels, are all very reasonably priced. Utopia carries both men’s and women’s clothing ranging in price from $10 to $35, jeans, jean jackets, and a good collection of vintage T shirts for $10. On a recent visit to the shop, Byrne pulled from the rack a Bill Blass jean skirt embellished with peach-colored lace, offered for just $20.
There are also brand-new Pons and Lucky brand shoes passed along to Byrne by another store owner. The shoes, which retail for $85 to $135, are on sale for $35.
“My whole goal is to have affordable clothing for Islanders,” she said.
Some of the more fun items include full-length lounge dresses from the 1960s, a sporty orange gingham dress from the same era, a bright yellow beaded purse, and a men’s Cuban-style silk shirt featuring embroidered saxophones.
“I love the ’80s,” said Byrne. “But I’m kind of all over the map. I think it’s a personal curation. I buy things that really resonate with me.”
Byrne collects items at estate sales in Virginia, where she spends part of each year and where, she notes, vintage hasn’t really caught on yet. Before she opened the pop-up shop, she was selling on Etsy, and will resume that practice with the closing of the store.
One of Byrne’s goals in opening the shop was having a space to present community events. In Utopia’s short lifetime, the shop hosted a poetry reading and book signing with fellow Cleveland House poet Jill Jupen, a talk by Tom Drescher on his book “The Women of Martha’s Vineyard,” and a talk on air pollution, air quality, and climate change with Ronnie Citron-Fink.
Given the name of the store, it’s not surprising that Byrne has an interest in the issue of sustainability. That was one of her motivators in starting the secondhand clothing business.
“If all clothes were recycled in the U.S., we would save 6 million items from ending up in landfills each year,” says Byrne, citing an official report. “Fifty-two percent of consumers say that the environment inspires them to shop vintage or secondhand. It’s called conscious shopping. The people who shop vintage understand the idea that we don’t want to embrace the petrochemicals and the kind of labor issues involved in manufacturing new clothes. These are the kinds of garments that have great serviceability and lasting power.”