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Rose Hille is sick of the…

Retroactive closes doors; and it's not just the economy…

By Gloria Diaz

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-08-09


Rose Hille is sick of the shit.

Literally.

The economy is only partially to blame in Hille’s decision to close Retroactive, a vintage clothing store that also sold the occasional lava lamp, poster or chair from years past. Retroactive was THE place to go if you needed that special something for whatever party or event that required it. Now, Hille is going through her store on North Anthony Boulevard, the location she moved to six years ago.

I’d heard the story as to why she was closing, but I asked Hille to tell me again. She’s a great storyteller (ask her about the time she almost bled to death — it’s hilarious) and I heard the unbelievable (but true) story once again. It was a typical Saturday…

“It was kinda busy. Daughter of a friend came in and made me feel really old, because she’s so tall and the last time I saw her, she was so small. Lady came in looking for a costume, and four skateboarders came in. My employee was asking me what I wanted him to do. And a couple of flabotron chicks come in and they’re wearing Hollister. They make a comment about how much they loooove the store, and then one of them walks up to me and asks to use the restroom.

“I said, ‘well, no, there’s Subway down the way, it’s in a brand-new building, there’s a coffee shop down the way,’ at which point they announced the coffee shop was disgusting. At the time the coney dog place was still open and I said, ‘there’s there.’ I said, “mine, you just can’t get to it.’ And I just generally don’t like the idea of people roaming around in the back room."

Hille continued to help various customers out and showed her employee what she wanted him to do. The flabotrons looked around for a while, hanging out in the tuxedo aisle.

“My employee came up to me and said, ‘what do you want me to do?’ And I took him back toward the back and explained to him. While I’m explaining, they’re coming out of the space, the two flabotrons, and we’re coming into the space and I’m explaining what I’m doing. And while I’m explaining, I can see the door opening and they’re leaving. I don’t think anything of it. I go up front. About three, five minutes after I left him standing there I hear, ‘Rose! I don’t think the cat did this.’ And I go back and lo and behold, there’s a nine-inch log. It’s brown, and it’s firmly packed! And it’s the size of a 50 cent piece if you cut it up into wedges! And, she wiped her butt on my clothes. (The item in question was a pair of tuxedo pants.) I scooped it up with a snow shovel and took it outside.“

The employee was sure the skateboarders had done it. But Hille knew better.

“This is somebody who obviously fed at the buffet line more than once. I said, ‘have you ever seen a skateboarder poop a load that big?’ I’ve never seen them eat that much. It’s somebody who ate a lot. It’s the two fat chicks. My employee ran out to see if he could catch them."

They were gone. Hille’s employee came back into the store.

“At that point, the kid looked at me and he goes ‘Rose, I’ve been really pissed off hearing you talk about how you’re going to close the store; your lease is coming up. Don’t blame ya. I don’t blame you if you actually just threw everybody out and closed now. This is disgusting.’”

Hille says she’s not going away completely. The store that started out as a booth at a few shows, then moved to a space in Southtown Mall, and finally ended up on the north side of town will show up on eBay. Coming from a family that didn’t throw something away if it was still functional, it’s easy to see why Hille’s store appeared to be spontaneously giving birth to clothes and shoes.

“I sort of make it my mission to save it (clothing)” says Hille.

Prior to “saving the clothes,” Hille worked in the hospitality industry as a waitress and bartender. She set up a booth at the once-a-year Deco show in Indianapolis on the recommendation from someone who occasionally bought stuff from her. Not really knowing what price to put on her merchandise, she paid the set up fee of more than $100, and in three days, she’d sold $3,000. That major success lost Hille a customer (“it’s the last time he bought anything from me”) but planted the seed of having her own business. After all, there wasn’t anything resembling a vintage clothing store in Fort Wayne.

“It never occurred to me that it would change and evolve into what it would become,” says Hille. “I think the smartest move I made was I opened it up like a couple months before Halloween. Because the Halloween business really, really bolstered my confidence.”

The economy played a small part in closing her doors. The theory that people would turn to second-hand clothing in a bad economy hasn’t really been proven in Fort Wayne, says Hille. Instead, says Hille, people are buying less new. “They’re not really flocking to used.”

Needing $4,000 in sales each month to just break even, Hille was instead faced with families wanting cheap entertainment. Instead of actually buying something, they would take a cue from the magazines and come in and play dress up in what was Fort Wayne’s ultimate clothes closet.

Hille has been selling stuff online for years to supplement the income that wasn’t coming from the store. She started doing eBay in 1998 and really started doing it two or three years ago, she says. She makes about $2,000 a month on average, working only two hours a day. And instead of dealing with customers haggling over prices, she can put something on eBay worth $20 and actually get $20 for it.

“And I don’t have to pick up after people who won’t pick up after themselves!” chirps Hille.

Right now, the process of moving and storing her inventory is a daunting task. When that’s done, Hille says she will set up a store on eBay. Etsy.com is another place where she’ll show up. It’s mostly a site for people to sell their craft items, but they have a section for vintage stuff. And Hille says she had great luck at this year’s Lawton Park Flea Market during the Three Rivers Festival. Look for her next year.

“I’ll be around,” she says. Hille’s eBay name is Retrose1. Her email address is Rosemary.Hille@worldnet.att.net.

Is there a possibility that Hille might return? Maybe. But there will be rules.

“There’s just going to be huge signs everywhere going, ‘These are the rules.’ And I’m going to remind you of the rules. If you don’t follow the rules, you can just get out! The thing is, I really don’t wanna do that. I hate the idea of doing that. Everybody should work a year in retail so they can see exactly what they have to go through.”

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