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New life for vintage items at Yuba City shop
As Annette Menchini ran her finger across the golden lip of a cocktail glass on Wednesday, she was reminded of the housewares her parents once had.
It's hard to find such quality items today, she said, instead of the mass-produced, disposable purchases people buy and discard. That's what draws her to Modern Relics in Yuba City, where on Wednesday she tried on a vintage fox-fur coat, peered in a plaid golf bag and pulled sequined dresses from the racks.
"There's a special amount of history that we have to respect," Menchini said.
The store at Bridge and Second streets opened about two months ago, and the 700-square-foot space is filled with vintage and vintage-inspired clothing, housewares and furniture. With a bear head behind the register, old luggage tacked to walls as shelves and chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, customers say the business is unlike anything else in Yuba-Sutter.
The vision began when, burned out as a bookkeeper, Sacramento resident Virginia Kambanis decided she wanted a 180-degree life change. With a love for thrift stores, passion for funky fashion and empty space in her family's building, she decided to partner with Yuba City resident Lynn Williams to start a store.
"I had a lot of naysayers," she said. "But there's a hole in the market. In Yuba City, it's still new.'"
All items come from what Kambanis calls the "holy trinity" — estate sales, garage sales and thrift shops, but some of the first pieces she sold were her own, the vintage clothes she rocked as teenager.
Before corporations like Pottery Barn and Anthropologie were producing new items based on old, Kambanis recognized vintage style and quality before it was "cool." She especially likes that so many pieces are made in the United States and still have use.
"For people that are green-conscious, this is the ultimate form of recycling," she said.
Many of the store's treasures date back decades, but a few are more modern or quality replicas. The small sales space is cozily filled with men's and women's clothing, old blenders and ice crushers, vases and lamps, globes and paintings.
Upstairs, is 3,000 square feet of what Kambanis calls "the craziness."
First built as a Masonic lodge around 1870, the second floor is an expanse of brick walls, open beams and wooden floors covered with an assortment of sofas, dresses, glass sets and other items.
"It's like a hoarder's dream or nightmare," she said. "It's kind of an obsession for me. I tell people my job is shopping."
So far, Yuba City resident Lana March has fallen in love with two dresses and a vase of 3-D faces she found among the racks. On Wednesday, she tried on a houndstooth coat and then a fringed suede coat she was soon modeling for Kambanis.
"I could care less what's 'in,'" March said. "I just wear what's me. I don't dress to impress. I dress to express."
Amy Johnson said her favorite find so far has been a set of kitchen canisters, metal with hand-painted flowers, that dated from the 1950s. On a break from cutting hair at Hair Houdiniz, she was still wearing her apron. She said she stops in twice a week to scout out new merchandise.
"It's real vintage. There isn't another place like it in town," she said, a Lucky Strikes cigarettes tin in her hand. "It's addicting."