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Whether you're looking to sport that perfect '90s-grunge look or '60s-inspired hippie vibe, Redwood Retro has you covered.

Nestled in the heart of Old Town Eureka, Redwood Retro specializes in vintage clothing from the year 2000 back to the 1950s. Upon entering, you'll find not just clothes, but retro home decor, jewelry and accessories. If you're lucky, you might hear a local band playing on the TV-shaped stage — a nostalgic reminder of early MTV — as you hunt for that killer tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt.

"A personal focus for us is '60s, '70s psychedelic, so we're really into groovy patterns, vibrant colors, bell bottoms," said Jayna Nix, co-owner of Redwood Retro.

Nix particularly loves selling vintage Western wear (think pearl snaps and fringe-leather suede jackets). One tactic the couple uses to freshen their supply is seeking out deadstock — clothes that a store once bought for its inventory, but never sold.

"We just got this big haul of vintage Western pants that are like from the '60s or '70s and they're brand-new with tags, and they've just kind of been preserved in time," Nix said.

Redwood Retro also highlights Humboldt-specific wear, such as vintage Reggae on the River tees and shirts featuring local landmarks.

"We have a shirt that we found from Hayfork, California, and it says, 'In the Bigfoot country,' and it's a Bigfoot graphic and along the foot, it says 'Smith River, Klamath River, Trinity Mad River, Van Duzen Eel River," Nix said. "Just really nostalgic Humboldt pieces that honor and highlight the history of this place that we live in."

For Nix, fashion runs in the family. Her great-grandfather had a clothing store up the street from Redwood Retro called Arthur Johnson Clothing Co., a store that survived the Great Depression, according to the Clarke Historical Museum website.

"It's really special to have a clothing-based business still in Old Town after what my great-grandfather had there," Nix said.

But it was her partner Benjamin Blair's love for vintage — inspired by going to garage sales with his grandmother — that ultimately pushed the pair to open Redwood Retro in 2020. In one year, the team turned their passion into a thriving business based on the earth-friendly practice of recycling old pieces.

While the store has existing relationships with local vintage vendors, community members can sell items to the store in exchange for cash or store credit.

"It's all very much curated, which is a little bit different than an average thrift store, where we don't take any donations of any kind," Nix said. "We source everything ourselves, so everything is unique and special."

Redwood Retro also has modern retro-inspired items whose sales support local makers: stained glass art, new clothing fashioned from vintage fabric, hand-dyed shirts and dresses. It also hosts Old Town Vintage Market, featuring vintage sellers and artists from across Humboldt County on the third Sunday of every month.

Small but mighty, Brainwash Thrift is a secondhand haven designed with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ expression in mind.

"This has been our overarching goal as a business: to take space in like majority-white Humboldt, where there's not a lot of places for people of color to go and openly feel safe and welcomed — and same with queer people," said Kait "Kiki" Angus, the owner of Brainwash Thrift.

Angus, who identifies as a queer, half-Cree, half-Mohawk Indigenous woman, was born in Canada and grew up on a reservation. She relocated to Humboldt in 2019 to be closer to her partner's family and opened Brainwash Thrift in June of 2021. She's determined to create a safe space where LGBTQA and BIPOC individuals can gather and shop without fear or ostracization or discrimination, Angus said.

An important aspect of that business model is being size-inclusive. Angus literally went the extra mile and then some, traveling to Sacramento and Los Angeles to fulfill the store's promise of featuring clothes that fit all bodies.

"We just were not finding that through just local sourcing and so we were traveling a lot to get those plus-sized pieces," Angus said, adding that Brainwash takes donations of all sizes but recently implemented a buy-sell-trade deal for plus-sized clothing.

While the store has only been around for less than a year, it had big goals for expanding. On Feb. 2, Angus opened Prism Gallery Arcata next to the thrift shop.

"We generally promote by POC artists and queer artists, though we like prioritize those marginalized people, we still have our doors open to everybody," Angus said. "So, after those priority calls have gone out, then we bring in everyone else and it's basically kind of like a little maker's store, and so people can come and shop in there and support local artists by purchasing their stuff."

On April 8, the team opened another store called Kiki Planet, a size-inclusive lifestyle shop selling new clothes and accessories. The store, doused in hot pink paint and glitter, features a stage for drag shows and other performances.

Brainwash Thrift reopened in April with a secondhand art supply stock — a move Angus made to better connect the thrift store and gallery, as well as to give BIPOC artists a spot to display their work and buy supplies. She hopes the feel will be similar to Scrap Humboldt, a sustainable creative reuse nonprofit that shuttered in 2020.

"[Scrap Humboldt had] like a huge bin of buckles, or a huge bin of recycled orange medicine bottles," Angus said. "They had just the craziest assortment of all kinds of stuff and so we're kind of trying to do that but on a much smaller scale because our space is super tiny."

Angus hopes to use the new businesses to make her secondhand efforts more sustainable and she is thankful to have received an outpouring of community support during expansion.

"We're really proud of what we've created," Angus said. "Diversifying our space gives people another reason to come in ... even if you're not really shopping for clothes, you might come in and find something else."

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About The Author

Carly Wipf

Bio:
Carly Wipf (she/her) is a freelance reporter and photographer living in Eureka. Before making her way to the Lost Coast, she graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Journalism and reported on communities across Northern California. When she is not writing, she can be found exploring Humboldt... more
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