Life comes full circle in Oregon District vintage shop
By Jason Webber
It could have been an ordinary overcast summer day in Ohio, but it just so happened to be July 25, 2009, and it just so happened to be my very first time in Dayton. I was on a blind date with a girl and it just so happened that our first physical introduction was in the Oregon District at Feathers Vintage Clothing.
And as it would turn out, this quaint little shop would turn out to be a very important place in my life.
It started out as your ordinary boy-meets-girl-on-Facebook-age story: She found me on an online dating site after typing the keyword “absinthe” in the search box. As fate would have it, I was one of the only dudes in Ohio who had a taste for the green fairy, so she suggested we connect. Even though I was living in Toledo at the time and thought Dayton was a tad outside my romantic jurisdiction, I nonetheless hopped in my hooptie and drove. That’s what you do when you find out that your potential quarry also likes the Jerky Boys, Pee Wee Herman, hardcore coffee and Bauhaus.
Spurred onward by her slightly flirty text messages and my iPhone’s questionable GPS app, I finally turned onto Fifth Street and saw her standing outside Pacchia (now Sidebar) lighting a cigarette. Though I’d only seen a headshot, I knew it was her — black hair, slightly messy, worn-to-perfection Doc Martens, arms covered with great tattoos. We had coffee on Pacchia’s patio, then started walking and talking, shaking off that first-date awkwardness. Then she led me into Feathers.
After making one gander at the jewelry, the rack of old school concert T-shirts and the incredible assortment of Jazz Age dresses, I proclaimed Feathers as the best vintage shop I had ever been in. There was a vibrant, joyous energy in the air that I had never felt in any secondhand store. Every piece of eclectic merchandise seemed to be haunted by the ghost of its original owner — you could almost see the long-haired stoner who first bought that Uriah Heep record, the I-Like-Ike housewife who pawed through the pages of the 1957 edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook. You know that raspberry colored beret that the chick in the Prince song bought? I guarantee you she purchased it at Feathers.
I fell in love that day. With a girl and a shop.
Cut and dissolve to 17 months later. I’ve since moved to Dayton, gotten a great job with a great boss — and I am alone. The girl and I had split just before Christmas (just one of those things) and I was now sleeping on a friend’s sofa as I waited for the cheap apartment I had rented to be vacated. And so, ‘twas on a snowy night in January that I found my depressed self on Fifth Street staring into the front window of Feathers with my mouth agape at what was displayed. Without thinking, I charged into the store.
“That jacket in the window. How much?” I hollered at owner Janet Phillips from the doorway.
“$275,” she replied. Though that was my clothing budget for all of 2011, I nonetheless asked if I could try it on. Because, really, you should’ve seen this thing — late ‘70s black cured leather with button-like studs covering the arms and the entire trim. This was simply the most incredible punk/motorcycle jacket ever made. Looking at it, I felt happy.
Janet helped me into the rather stiff and really heavy garment and for the second time in my life, I felt the magic powers of Feathers at work. As I admired myself in the mirror, I broke into a smile you could see from space. The jacket fit perfectly and I suddenly realized that for the first time since the breakup, I was both grinning and feeling good about myself. It had been weeks since I’d felt alive and wearing that jacket, I was ready to take on new challenges, new friends and new loves. No doubt sensing my rejuvenation, Janet smiled and said, “That jacket has been waiting for you.” And it had.
There are some places in our lives that go beyond the scope of ordinary commerce —the ice cream parlor where you had your first date in middle school, the indie record store where you met that guy you had a doomed, but passionate romance with in college. The kind of place where you suddenly hear of the voice of “Wonder Years” narrator Daniel Stern in your head every time you go inside. For me, in Dayton, that place is Feathers. So thank you, Janet. You gave me wings when I first soared with the bliss of a new love and you helped me fly again after that love had crashed.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at firstname.lastname@example.org.