Test of Time

V intanthro Modern & Vintage would be like a time capsule—if a time capsule could be continually refreshed and updated. The Westville boutique features a rotating selection of curated clothing and home wares from the last 100 years, carefully displayed via curving racks and inviting vignettes.

Founded by owner Melissa Gonzales in 2011, Vintanthro existed as a mobile truck and an East Rock store before finding a home on Westville’s main drag in 2018. Gonzales, who also works as an art teacher at Hamden High School, has formed a creative triumvirate with store manager Victoria Armentrout and social media director Molly Flanagan who bring their textile, film, and fine art backgrounds into the mix. “We’re working together like a well-oiled machine,” Gonzales says.

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Informed by Gonzales’s knowledge and sensibilities, all three act as buyers. “We seek out product that we love, that’s wearable and functional and possible to blend and converge with your contemporary wardrobe,” Armentrout says. Each piece, whether it be for kids or adults, is also cleaned or dry cleaned, repaired or restyled. The shop “has a target price between 40 and 70 dollars,” so most people “can be a little impulsive and not feel like it’s out of their reach.” The bargains in the sale room on the lower floor are priced as low as $10, while contemporary items like cards, candles, hair clips and even cookies and tea and cocoa deepen both the appeal and the experience.

The team has also recently started organizing collections that are thematically unified. A previous collection, “Mayflowers,” featured items with floral elements, and the upcoming Rainbow collection was chosen to celebrate Pride month. Another recent addition, Vintanthro Plus, clothing for sizes twelve and up, has been “moving very quickly,” Armentrout says, both through in-person and online shopping.

The COVID shutdown gave the team an opportunity to expand and optimize for the latter. Now their website, Instagram, Facebook and Etsy pages are “shoppable, although all of them serve a slightly different purpose,” Armentrout says. For example, “Etsy is primarily for our designer and highly collectible pieces.” While they describe the foot traffic in Westville as “astounding” and New Haven as a “destination for vintage,” Gonzales and team are excited about making the store accessible to those who’ve moved away, as well as to those who can’t get to New Haven. (Although, while I was there, a woman had traveled from Boston to try on, and buy, several dresses.)

These changes are the latest in a long series of “incremental steps” Gonzales has been taking for more than a decade. “I don’t have any formal business training,” she says. “So I dabble and I figure things out and I test out the market and I see what sticks and I take it to the next level and I kind of keep going and try not to get too far ahead of myself.” As for the reason behind it all, the answer that emerges is love—for her team, New Haven, Westville and the items she curates, especially the vintage pieces, which are well-made and “still look fabulous.” “There’s a reason,” she says, “why these things have survived all this time.”

Vintanthro Modern & Vintage
895 Whalley Ave, New Haven (map)
Tues-Fri noon-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm
www.vintanthromodern.com

Written and photographed by Heather Jessen. Image 2 features, from left, Molly Flanagan, Melissa Gonzales and Victoria Armentrout.

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Heather Jessen is a poet and writer who likes asking questions. She’s in awe of the educators, artists and social workers who’ve helped New Haven kids and families during the pandemic.

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