Story and slideshow by MEGAN DOLLE
In her spare time as a child, Rachael Skidmore reveled in trips to her local thrift store, combing through piles of discarded attire in search for that rare and timeless treasure.
Skidmore, now 27, admits that vintage clothing has always made her feel beautiful. She still looks forward to those trips to the thrift store, and has since turned this uncommon passion into a commercial venture. At her business, Maeberry Vintage, located on 207 E. Broadway in Salt Lake City, Skidmore showcases her coveted possessions.
Tireless exploring of thrift outlets, estate sales and yard sales seem to be the secret behind creating a timeless inventory.
“It’s not just old stuff, these are treasures. It’s hard to find those quality pieces,” Skidmore said.
Skidmore simply needs potential customers to appreciate her passion and hard work. Yet, she faces another problem. Location. Maeberry Vintage is situated in the basement of a local retro furniture store.
“I do miss the light of day,” Skidmore said when speaking about her unconventional location. She has found that owning a physical store is more difficult than her experiences with an online business through Etsy, an e-commerce website for handmade or vintage items. “It’s hard for some people to find us. … Getting people here is a challenge,” Skidmore said.
Large companies with enormous marketing budgets don’t appear to have a problem creating foot traffic. Local businesses, on the other hand, need to be more resourceful. How do these resilient entrepreneurs overcome such an overwhelming task? The answer is collaboration.
Salt Lake City business owners and artists have built supportive relationships with one another through Instagram, a popular social networking application. These collaborations allow each participant to take advantage of following, thus dramatically growing his or her own client base and social media reach.
In Skidmore’s case, she is able to reach out to local photographers and stylists through the photo-sharing platform, offering her inventory for trade. Artists with upcoming shoots can rent the clothing for free in exchange for photographs that will be used in marketing by both parties.
Instagram is also an important tool for artists Zach French, 20, and Audrey Tran, 19, who use it for marketing and collaborations. Her boyfriend, French, is majoring in photography at Salt Lake Community College and describes himself as a fashion and street photographer. Tran runs a fashion blog, working alongside French as a stylist and makeup artist.
“I have always loved fashion, it’s always been my passion,” Tran said in a phone interview.
Tran found Skidmore’s store through Instagram and discovered she was searching for artists to collaborate with. Tran jumped at the opportunity to get creative with Maeberry Vintage’s wardrobe. French photographed Tran and other models in a variety of outfits and accessories.
“We have something that is valuable to photographers, which is basically a huge wardrobe full of lots of period pieces, a lot of interesting items that are fun to photograph,” Skidmore said. “They get a wonderful opportunity to put the wardrobe together and it’s free of charge. We get wonderful images of our items in the store and that social media part is just huge.”
That social media part is huge for Maeberry Vintage. When customers arrive, Skidmore asks each of them how they found out about her hidden store. The No. 1 answer she receives is “Instagram.” The young business owner attributes this to her collaborations with local artists like Tran and French.
Yet Skidmore isn’t the only one who benefitted. Tran also experienced a dramatic rise in social media presence since their collaboration — from 1,500 to 2,000 followers in just two weeks.
“I’ve seen a huge increase in my followers. … A lot of them were due to Maeberry Vintage,” Tran said in a phone interview.
Between the three locals involved in this collaboration, their Instagram posts reach almost 14,000 people.
Tran and French appreciate these collaborations because they are also discovering the difficulty of building a client base. In February 2015, they rented a shared space in a studio together at 329 W. Pierpont Ave. French is excited about the opportunity, but they also have some clear concerns.
“So far it’s going great. I love the space. … I think that I will be able to take my art to the next level here,” French said in a phone interview.
But Tran understands the need for increased social media reach and collaborations. “It’s just hard to spread your name out there,” she said.
Kristen Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah, knows that marketing is one of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face.
“Actually expressing who they are is the hardest things for businesses to do. They certainly can’t hire marketing firms, they can’t afford traditional media advertising,” she said.
While Lavelett recognizes the preferred social media platform may differ for each business owner depending on his or her style, she identifies an increasing number of younger users on Instagram. For local clothing companies and artists, Instagram seems to be the new way to reach their target market.
Lavelett expressed it simply, “[Instagram] allows you to very quickly visually represent your business.”