Champaign woman shares love of vintage clothing, antiques with community

By Pari Apostolakos, Staff writer

Carrie Homann was just a young girl when she realized her dream of owning a vintage clothing store.

It all started when she opened a trunk full of vintage clothes and antiques. Homann was captivated by the contents of the trunk. She loved the colors, the style, the fabrics, everything about vintage clothing spoke to her.

Today, Homann is the owner of Carrie’s Fabulous to Funky, which is currently located inside Crossroads Corner Consignment at 723 S. Neil St., Champaign. Homann has been in the vintage clothing business for over 30 years.

The Daily Illini sat down with Homann to discuss what her small business is all about and to talk about what it’s like selling vintage clothing in a modern world.

The Daily Illini: Can you tell me about your business?

Carrie Homann: I was (located in downtown Champaign) for 30 years, at 204 N. Neil St. I moved inside Crossroads’ north store about 3 1/2 years ago and I sold the building downtown. I have a lot of space here (at Crossroads). I have this whole jewelry section and then this whole wall and the room in the back. I deal basically in the vintage clothing, jewelry, hats, costuming type stuff. And some furniture and, you know, some antique stuff.

DI: What draws you to vintage clothing and antiques?

CH: Well I’ve been doing it for a really long time. When I was younger, my mother bought me a trunk at an antique (auction), and I loved it. And that’s just what started with the vintage clothing. I think the trunk was full of stuff from, like, Victorian through the 1920s, and it just hooked me right in. And then the jewelry came about five years later. I just traveled around and did shows and things like that in different cities. And then I moved here to Champaign … I had a store in Mattoon since I was like 18; I started the store when I was of legal age at that time. I moved (to Champaign) in 1985 and started a store.

DI: What is the market like for vintage clothing and antiques in the Champaign- Urbana area?

CH: As far as the vintage clothing it’s not as good as it used to be, ‘cause I’ve been doing this for so long, kids nowadays really aren’t into it. They’re minimalist for the most part. I do a lot with theater still, (I have) worked with all the theaters in the area and surrounding areas. And the high schools, of course. But the vintage clothing goes through different trends, and right now it seems to be very slow for it, kids just aren’t into it all that much like they were, say, back in the ’80s and early ’90s, it was crazy then. Those were good times with the vintage clothes. But, you know, a lot of kids now are just minimalist and not really into having lots of things to haul around with them as far as, like, antiques go. A lot of them now are into the electronics and travel but we still have our share of people who are funky and fun and enjoy the fun clothes. I do a lot of shows in Chicago, and I sell a ton of vintage clothes up there, and I do a lot with a lot of the dealers.

DI: Where do you source your items from?

CH: Estates mostly. I’ve been doing it for so long that people call me to come to their house or they come to me or something of that effect. So, that’s where I get most of my stuff is from estates but, right now I just have so much that right now I’m really just buying furs. I do buy a lot of furs, but I don’t really sell them here in Champaign. There’s not much of a market for it here.

DI: Do you plan on passing the business down to anyone in particular eventually?

CH: I have a 22-year-old and she could care less about it. That’s one of the reasons why we sold the big building downtown. She really wanted nothing to do with it. And, she’s getting ready to go up to DePaul in Chicago, so she’s more (into) film and movie production. That’s her thing. Vintage clothes are not it, unfortunately. But that’s OK, it’s not for everybody.

DI: What makes your store successful?

CH: Gosh … it’s a lot of hard work. You know, it’s not your typical 9-to-5 or 8-to-5 job. You’re constantly gone on weekends looking for stuff or traveling. Doing shows, you’re packing, you’re unpacking, packing again, unpacking again. You’re cleaning, you’re sewing, you’re constantly doing something … and the older I get, it gets a little more wear and tear on you, but I still love (what I do). I still have (regular customers that I’ve had for years) and they’re (in their) 40s and 50s. And then, I do the shows. I travel a lot. I go to Chicago quite a bit … I just go into a bigger market. There are still quite a few people in Champaign, it’s just not what it used to be. Who knows what next year will bring. Right now, vintage clothes just isn’t a huge trend.

DI: What advice do you have for other small business owners or people who want to open up their own businesses?

CH: Do a lot of research. Be (knowledgeable) on what you’re selling or what you’re going to try to sell. Have a backup plan. And, you know, just know your market. Know your target area. You know, when I got into vintage clothes I didn’t, because it was out of a labor of love for me, although it was a lot of hard work. But, you know, with that comes other people that you will find (love it also) and from there you can build a business.

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