Home Addition

Vintanthro Modern & Vintage has been a Westville staple since 2018, selling well-preserved dresses, belts, suits, boots. But there wasn’t a lot of room to carry the things that dress up homes: tables, chairs, lamps, kitchenware and more, with the character and charm of days gone by.

Now there’s another room. If you can leave behind the circa-1950 Anne Fogarty tea dress with the soutache braiding, you’ll find yourself walking through a 10-foot wide opening that three weeks ago was a wall and into Vintanthro’s new space devoted to home decor.

A taste of it was on view in the new front windows, where a lime green chair and pale yellow ottoman made me think, associatively, of a classic 1950s diner where the waitress called you “honey” before setting down a steaming cup of joe on a Formica counter. Then there was a midcentury floor lamp with a flared ceramic base coated in black, white and gold geometry so yesterday it was today.

sponsored by

New Haven Symphony Orchestra

There was art on the walls, including homey needlepoint hangings in one corner, one of many vignettes—in fact, the formal name for this part of the venture is Vintanthro Vignettes—shop owner Melissa Gonzales says is intended to tell a story. A cluster of wicker and leafy frond textures mimicked “Jungalow” decor, a kind of tropical bohemian style that recalls midcentury fascinations with Hawaii and beyond. We passed a glass-top table stacked artfully with dishes and trinkets, and Gonzales, who also teaches art full-time at Hamden High School, says it’s an “eighties sort of Miami Vice kind of postmodern moment.” She and Victoria Armentrout, store manager and textile connoisseur, aim to cultivate and sell things they like and are popular in the design world, with looks from their youth—the ’80s and ’90s—back in vogue.

I’m told a wall installation of rotary dial phones has already turned into a hotspot for customers to take selfies. Picking up the handset of a black, wall-mounted beauty brought me back in time, and I chuckled at the red label-maker tape under the rotary dial that reads, “All off-island calls are long distance / Please charge your credit card.” The phone—and the message—came from a summer home belonging to Armentrout’s father. In another section of the shop, there was a large, framed fabric featuring a fish—until Gonzales took it down, because someone just bought it. It’s a Marimekko print, an oversized statement piece, and she sold two of them just now, including one with a bright flower motif.

Gonzales started Vintanthro—a portmanteau of vintage and anthropology—online in 2011 and transformed it to a business on wheels in 2013 using an outfitted minibus, eventually opening a brick-and-mortar shop in East Rock before moving the store to the current location, at 895 Whalley Avenue, in 2018. In November, after learning the building Vintanthro had called home for four years was to be sold, she teamed up with adjacent business owners to buy it, annexing 893 next door (formerly the hair store Hair, Here) and shutting her doors over the holidays to renovate. When she reopened January 6, Vintanthro was twice the size it had been, including, below the new home decor section, a work area for photo shoots and furniture rehabs, plus space for her and Armentrout’s daughters to do their homework.

Vintanthro’s inventory arrives via several routes: private purchases, estate sales and buyouts, thrift store finds and sometimes Gonzales’s and Armentrout’s own collections. An eye-popping, floral 1970s couch where customers can have a sitdown is an example of the latter. Not for sale, though it may be after a reupholstering, it came from Gonzales’s garage.

There’s more. “Ephemera,” Gonzales says as we stand in front of prints and cards in neat wooden cubbies—things that aren’t expected to last forever, especially items made from paper. Nonetheless I found them beautiful, worthy of looking at for centuries. I learned, too, that “vintage” refers to objects that are 20 years old or older, “antique” 100 years or older. The shop carries some antiques but mostly midcentury and later finds, plus new gift items—teas, candles, headbands and more—for customers looking for style but not necessarily vintage. “There’s something for everybody,” she says.

The expansion is still a “work in progress,” and Gonzales and Armentrout, with help from employee Zoe Phillips, seem revved up. Now her own landlord, Gonzales is thrilled to be able to keep Vintanthro’s home on this busy Westville strip. “We’re pretty established, and I think we’re a pretty important part of… Westville’s creative, entrepreneurial ecosystem,” she says. And, as with any good ecosystem, it’s all about the home environment.

Vintanthro Modern & Vintage
893-895 Whalley Ave, New Haven (map)
Tues-Fri noon-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm
(484) 816-8243
Website | Instagram

Written by Jill Dion. Images 1 and 2 photographed by Jill Dion. Image 3 by @vintanthromodern.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jill Dion is a 1987 graduate of Quinnipiac College, where she earned a degree in mass communications. She wrote for newspapers in New Haven and Fairfield counties from 1989 to 2021, now working as a high school writing tutor and freelance journalist and copy editor while she pursues fiction writing. She has four grown children and three grandchildren.

Leave a Reply