Dandelion: a different kind of vintage store

Alex Nowak

Alex Nowak

By Jenny Winkler

Employees at the vintage clothing store, Dandelion, believe their store is different from the stereotypical vintage shop.

“I think that here we purposely go and seek out stuff people want to buy,” said Katrina Catizone, Dandelion employee. “At other vintage stores, they think if it’s old, you’ll want it.”

Owner Sara Hudson, a University alumna, returned to Champaign 11 years ago to open Dandelion, 9 E. Taylor St., in downtown Champaign.

“I thought I knew the town well enough,” Hudson said. “But I was scared to death, and I’m very lucky and fortunate that it worked out.”

She moved to San Francisco after graduating and found a job in advertising. Hudson often frequented vintage stores on Haight Street, which later inspired her to return to Champaign and open her own store. Hudson felt there was room for one more vintage clothing store in Champaign that had a fun, urban feeling to it.

“I brought ideas from the west coast,” Hudson said. “I thought people would appreciate something different.”

Hudson describes Dandelion as a little more fashion-oriented than other stores. She tries to keep up with the trends, so merchandise is always changing. While Hudson is currently starting to get into ’80s fashion, she said the men’s section is “fabulous” because of its western-style embroidered shirts.

“The clothes are not only vintage and old,” Hudson said. “But they are things we like that are vintage and old.”

Before September, Hudson would buy clothes from the public, but the store soon found itself packed with clothes. Since then, Hudson’s policy has changed to lessen the amount of merchandise purchased for the store.

“It was difficult to juggle buying clothes from customers while helping other customers,” Hudson said. “(Now we can be) more friendly to people coming in.”

Hudson said one of her favorite aspects about running the store is seeking out the vintage clothes herself. She finds clothes at church and rummage sales and out-of-town thrift stores. She said the local selection of vintage clothes is limited because most of the clothes are picked over by other stores and college students. Hudson has found some very “phenomenal” secret places that have raised the quality of Dandelion’s clothing. She also travels as far as New York for accessories such as jewelry, earrings and watches, which are all new. Dandelion also has clothing brands like J. Crew, Gap and Levi’s in stock.

Even with the change in policy, Hudson said Dandelion is still in need of more space for clothing. She solved this problem by opening up another vintage shop, Rocket Retro, in September for reduced-price clothing. Rocket Retro, 75 E. Chester St., is at Dandelion’s original location.

“I try to listen to customers,” Hudson said. “If two or three people ask for something, I try my best to get what they need. The store’s changed based on the customer base.”

Hudson said her largest group of customers is students ranging from middle school to college. People also shop at her store for costumes, she said. But her customers are not just students. Hudson said adults come to her store because of their preference for retro clothing. If people are planning a theme party or fraternities and sororities have an exchange, Hudson offers them an opportunity to come to Dandelion at a specific time to shop and get discounts.

“I heard to come to Dandelion, and I liked it so I came back,” said Clara Hoag, freshman in LAS.

Halloween is Dandelion’s busiest time of the year. Hudson said some people come in and say, “I don’t know what to be, help.” Employees start them off by asking about favorite characters while looking over what the store has in stock. Hudson said she has been trying to convince two girls to purchase ice skating outfits and trick-or-treat as Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Dandelion will be open until 9 p.m. through Halloween to help customers pick out costumes.

Dandelion has good competition with other stores, said Hudson. She sends people who want jewelry that Dandelion does not carry to Rebecca’s, 204 N. Neil St., across the courtyard. Dandelion employees also recommend customers to Le Shoppe, 110 E. University Ave.

“Each of our stores are a little different so we all work together,” Hudson said.

Hudson said some people choose to shop at Dandelion rather than the mall, but that most people combine the two. However, Hudson said she has heard some customers say they prefer to shop at her store because the clothes are cheaper and “already broken in.”

“The mall sucks,” Hoag said. “I like shopping here a lot. The people are really nice and I like the purses.”