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Vendor Spotlight: Bess Dunlevy of the PGH Vintage Mixer

We’re so thrilled to have The PGH Vintage Mixer participating in our inaugural Neighborhood Flea. Co-founder Bess Dunlevy took some time to tell us more about the history of her interest in vintage, and the future direction of the Mixer. Be sure to check out the Mixer’s booth and continue this conversation when you see her.

The PGH Vintage Mixer at the Heinz History Center

The PGH Vintage Mixer at the Heinz History Center

When did you first develop an interest in vintage and thrift?

My mother would take me to flea markets when I was a kid in Washington County, and my grandmother, who lived in Murrysville, took me along when she would go “junk shopping,” as she called it (antique stores) in Apollo, PA. Collecting has always been fun for me and it’s an interest that has stayed with me into adulthood. In 2009, my best friends and I started a vintage housewares shop - Red Pop Shop - on Etsy, and I’ve since branched out in selling small furniture and vintage clothing here in Pittsburgh. In my own life, midcentury furniture and vintage fashion are a big part of my personal aesthetic - it’s rarely about the value of the item for me. I just like old things.

How did you come up with the idea for the PGH Vintage Mixer?

The vintage fair came about over multiple conversations between myself, my business partners Jason Sumney and Michael Lutz, and our friend Rachel Eleleth. We discussed the successes of vendor fairs focused solely on vintage and retro culture in other cities, and the wealth of vintage and antiques shops - both brick-and-mortar and online - right here in Southwestern PA. In 2011, we began planning the first Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer - a one-day vintage event with an atmosphere that would fall somewhere between a flea market and a high-end antiques fair. Our mission for the event, then and now, is that it focuses on quality and variety but remains accessible to collectors of all ages and budgets.

What guidelines do you use to curate your collection(s)?

All PVM vendors are asked to apply through a juried application process. We focus on variety and quality when choosing vendors, all of whom (to date) are local/regional sellers. It should also be noted that Mixer vendors sell only genuine vintage wares (more than 20 years old). Upcycled vintage and reworked craft, though valuable in their own right, aren’t a part of this event.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of organizing the PGH Vintage Mixer?

The people. We’ve made so many wonderful connections with other small vintage businesses, like our own, and we continue to delight in the conversations had among buyers and sellers at the Mixer over polyester and antique books and vinyl. When we set plans in motion in 2011, we wondered if there was an audience for an event like this here. The Pittsburgh community has been incredibly supportive of our vision and the shop owners who sell at this event.

What’s next for the Mixer? What are some of your long-term goals?

The next Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer vendor fair is Saturday, November 22, at The Teamsters Hall Local 249 on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. We’ll be soliciting for interested vendors in the coming months and we’ll have information about the Mixer, a newsletter sign-up, and giveaways for those visiting our table at The Neighborhood Flea, July 27, in the Strip District. In the long-term, we’re thrilled as our ongoing relationship with the Heinz History Center in the Strip continues and we’re in talks toward plans in spring 2015. We hope Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer grows as more people find out about it, that it continues to be a place to showcase the many impressive vintage businesses in our region and that it remains a fun destination for vintage lovers here in Pittsburgh.

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See you at The Flea!