A street in Downtown Las Vegas is becoming a new destination for thrift shoppers, and it’s easy to see why. Despite the small-business instability created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of retail options has landed on Commerce Street, bringing additional vintage and modern wares to the area.
Taylor Rice, 26, launched the vintage thrift store Alt Rebel 702 over the summer, and it quickly became one of the most-talked-about stores in the area. “Any chance I got, I would drive to [San Francisco’s] Haight-Ashbury and go to all the vintage shops, thrift shops,” says Rice, who attended college in the Bay Area. “That’s where I drew a lot of inspiration for this store.”
Having traveled to other cities with memorable thrift shops, Rice noticed Las Vegas didn’t feature that same one-of-a-kind experience. “It would always disappoint me, going to stores like this in New York and LA and not having something at home,” she says. “I was like, if no one else is going to do it, I’ll do it myself.”
The walls of Alt Rebel are covered with local artwork—a giant mural at the entrance by local artist Dray and another mural by Pretty Done across the interior of the fitting rooms. There’s also art for sale inside the boutique, helping provide a community-focused vibe.
Rice, who has no background in retail, says she researches everything from labels to price points before something goes on sale. “Everything in regard to this business was completely foreign to me,” Rice says. “It’s coming together more and more.”
Unlike many thrift stores in bigger cities, Alt Rebel 702 strives to keep prices affordable. “I know when people are thrifting, they’re trying to find a deal, so that’s how we’ve been pricing things. So far it’s been working for us.”
Alt Rebel buys and sells everything from vintage band tees to dad hats, button-ups, dresses, jeans, like-new athleisure wear and more. “I love seeing people light up when they find a piece that’s super unique and fits their style,” Rice says.
Another store, the Good Wolf Lifestyle Co, which sells modern and vintage wares, just celebrated its one-year anniversary on Commerce. Like Rice, owners Sean and Lisa Blanchard say they were tired of waiting for a similar store to open, so they decided to start one themselves.
“To this day we have people who say, ‘I didn’t know there was anything to do on Commerce,’” Sean says. “We have something for everyone. We want to give people a reason to come back, and I feel like that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
And while the pandemic could have derailed their business, Sean says it actually gave the owners “a minute to come up for air. It was five months of nonstop—we never closed,” Sean says. “So it was like, OK, let’s knock off the things on our list we’ve put on the back burner,” like creating a stronger website. “Those things helped us to extend our reach to people who might want to shop us from afar.”
The married couple met years ago while working for another retail store and have since turned the Good Wolf into their collective passion and vision. “We’re lucky to have each other in life and in business,” Sean says.
Another thrift shop on Commerce’s “boutique row,” Off the Threads, actually opened early in 2019, but owner Linda Ruiz has been renovating her space for most of 2020.
“I started selling on Depop and realized Vegas didn’t really have vintage stores, so I was like, OK, I want to make a cool one with vintage clothing [that] could also be modernized—a fun place to be creative,” Ruiz says.
Ruiz also began offering alterations as an homage to her grandmother, who worked in the fashion industry. “If people want a custom jacket made, we’ll make it from scratch,” Ruiz says.
Though Off the Threads is relatively new, Ruiz’s client list is full of big names. She has worked as a seamstress for Dua Lipa during the Billboard Awards, paired with the Cosmopolitan and the Venetian for photo shoots and worked on set for brands like Wrangler.
Ruiz says she hopes to have her space reopened by the end of the year, though she acknowledges permitting issues could delay that. In the meantime, Off the Threads is operating online and as a pop-up business, with one event scheduled for November 21 at Alt Rebel next door.
Teaming up with a competitor might sound counterintuitive, but for the shop owners on Commerce, it’s part of creating a community. “You get to experience art, amazing restaurants and breweries, and find something to do in between,” Sean Blanchard says. “It could be us, it could be our neighbors. We know everyone is looking for something fun to do that’s unique.”
And it’s still evolving. Look for more new businesses to hit the area soon, including a furniture store called Authentik, from Eat chef and owner Natalie Young.