Coventry Village pop-up shop offers wearable pieces of Cleveland’s past
Now open until at least Aug. 15, the former American Apparel space on Coventry Road has transformed into a showroom of vintage knitwear from The Ohio Knitting Mills—one of the many companies that once made Cleveland a center of textile manufacturing.
Steve Presser, owner of Big Fun, is one of the partners in the pop-up venture, along with Debbie Gulyas, who for many years owned Renaissance Parlour, a Coventry vintage clothing boutique.
According to Presser, whether you call it “new old stock”—a vintage toy term—or “deadstock”—in vintage clothing parlance—all of the merchandise is in new, unworn condition. The styles date from the 1950s through the 1980s, and the knits are made from synthetic materials (remember Orlon?), 100 percent cotton and wool, and other fabrics.
“Customers have come in to tell us stories about how a parent, grandparent or family friend had worked at Ohio Knitting Mills,” said Presser. “One of our favorite stories was of a customer whose best friend's mother and grandmother worked there. They all lived in Little Italy, and the owner of the mill would bring nearly complete hippie vests to their home with a separate box of fringe, and the women would sit around after dinner, finishing these vests. We know this is true, as our customer had a flashback when she saw the finished vests hanging on the wall, and she had all the correct names and dates.”
"People are coming in not only to buy a piece of Americana, but specifically a piece of Cleveland. They are telling stories that you just don't hear at other stores,” Presser stated.
The pop-up shop is located at 1782 Coventry Road. It is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer. She lives in the Shaker Farm Historic District in Cleveland Heights.