By Sonia Lee Garber
Michael Stark is the 25-year-old entrepreneur behind Stark Vintage, a vintage clothing shop that opened over the weekend of April 31-May 1, 2021 on the 2nd floor of 925 South Street in downtown Peekskill, NY.
“As far as the actual store… I started doing this as a business… I started collecting things to sell five years ago, but it was really an interest of mine personally for the past ten years. I would just go and try to find interesting things, you know, that had some sort of history behind them,” says Stark.
Rather than buying items online, Stark has collected his vintage items in real-world places such as thrift shops, estate sales, or tag sales.
“It’s a real process,” says Stark. “You have to find a location that, you know, either has someone donating it or someone that has an estate sale…a place where people are trying to let go of things that they don’t care about. And to them, it’s not worth anything, but when you go yourself and you see something, it might mean something to you.”
Stark’s interest in vintage began in high school.
“In high school, I started going to try to find band-related t-shirts or jackets from the eighties, just because these items already had intrinsic value based off of nostalgia that people felt towards it.”
Stark would find items that resonated with him and he made a social media account back in 2018 just for vintage clothing. He had a pop-up store open in May 2018 and from there he was completely hooked into the idea that he wanted a retail space.
Stark has definitely developed an eye for value in vintage clothing.
“I would say, value is an interesting word because it’s usually what people associate with monetarily how much money it’s worth…which definitely is a factor. I can spot something and say, that’s worth a lot to somebody in a much different way than looking at just the money side of it…like what it’s worth to a certain person. It might be worth zero, but it might be worth a million dollars to another person just because of what it represents to that person,” says Stark.
Actually, upstairs from the vintage clothing portion of his space, is very cool photography and event space.
“I wanted there to be two avenues of interest because if somebody doesn’t care about clothing at all, they don’t care about t-shirts. They don’t care about jackets and hats, and they’re not interested in that whole thing where there’s a historical meaning behind it. Then they’re not going to be interested in coming to the store. But if I have the opportunity to do music events, art events, and gaming events, there’s a lot more opportunity for people to come in for that reason.”
Also, someone that may be visiting the event space above his shop has to pass through his clothing store first, so it may pique an interest in someone not familiar with vintage clothing.
Stark has been thinking about opening his store for three years, since 2018. He has been very industrial in how he was going to open his store by working and supporting himself doing contracting work. He did not sell any of his vintage items during this time, he only collected them for the vision of his store to come to fruition.
Since Stark saved up to open his store during full-time contract work, he was also able to build his store and event space out himself, without having to hire someone else to do it.
Stark grew up in Ossining and moved to Peekskill in 2014, but he has been coming to Peekskill, specifically 925 South Street, since 2004, due to it being the location of his mother’s licensed massage practice.
He took various classes in the event space that is now his, such as art and fencing. Again, Stark has had the vision of doing something in the particular building of 925 South Street for quite some time.
“I only wanted to do this store in Peekskill, and actually I really only wanted to do it in this building ever since I was a kid I really wanted Peekskill to be the place because I have a lot of faith in Peekskill. I didn’t want to go to Beacon, I didn’t want to go to New York City, I wanted the place that I just care for it.”
We do talk about what his typical working day is like, and the hours that he keeps.
His shop hours are open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and he books by appointment throughout the week. As a typical entrepreneur, his store is always on his mind, whether he’s sending out emails, helping customers, or searching for or buying new items to sell in his store.
Stark also recognized the advantages of taking vacation and breaks.
“I found out that after not taking a day off in two months, I was going a little crazy and I actually had to take a little three-day vacation and go relax with my friends on Virginia Beach, to recharge my batteries.”
In closing, I asked Stark what his biggest hope or goal for the store is. Stark chokes up a bit and answers, “I think it’s already happened.”