It’s all vintage. All of it, and it’s fresh, all at the same time. The range of styles, fabrics, and color, much of it dating from the 1930s through the 1970s, is dizzying. Tea dresses, gowns and lingerie from ages ago in mint condition in a wide range of prices, beg to be tried on. Summer cotton frocks, with detailing, buttons and closures you can’t find anywhere nowadays. Loungewear, once only suitable for at-home wear in the drawing room, is perfect for going out on the town today. You just can’t not go in, and touch and feel the rich fabric and admire the time-tested style.
Owner Claire Merrett is from Great Britain – just an hour west of London, in fact – and this month opened up her own women’s vintage clothing shop at 102 Washington Street West, in Lewisburg, called Vintage 102. Her array of elegant and fab garments handsomely compliment the other apparel shops along the street, helping to burnish the tourist destination brand Lewisburg is forging.
As a one-time “punk rocker,” Claire said she used to haunt the “charity stores” in London for hip second-hand clothing, as young people everywhere are prone to do in seeking their own personal style. The joy of the search for fun clothes is what drew Claire to open the vintage clothing store, even though she has never delved into retail before. So far, the experience is going well. Having joined the Lewisburg Business Association, she says all her fellow shop owners have been “amazingly supportive.”
Looking around the shop, which once housed prints and paintings by local artist Robert Tuckwiller, the transformation to a classy vintage dress shop is complete – you wouldn’t recognize the old place.
The Merretts arrived to our part of West Virginia via ABB. Claire’s husband, John, was an employee with the British branch of the international firm, and was offered a position with ABB in Greenbrier County. But before he accepted, company management wanted to be sure West Virginia suited them and so invited them to a week long holiday back in 2013 to look the place over, because “a small town isn’t for everyone,” they’d said. Apparently the Merretts were pleased with what they saw, and by 2014, they’d moved here with their pets, a Wire Haired Fox Terrier and a Bengal cat.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some culture shock.
As Claire describes their reactions, living as they had near London, where the sheer volume of shops, traffic and people was wall to wall, life in the hamlet of Lewisburg came as something of a surprise. Their decision, none the less, was to take it all in as “a once in a lifetime adventure,” which says a lot about the couple. Since then, both have been “overwhelmed” with the genuine friendliness of West Virginians, who have made them feel right at home and welcomed.
Vintage 102 is located, naturally, at 102 Washington Street, West, and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Word of mouth is traveling fast, so, you are advised to make a point to stop in the next time you are in Lewisburg. You will be delighted with what you find there.