Preen crosses 4th Avenue underpass
Vintage boutique leaves downtown proper for new location
Emilie Marchand and Erin Bradley gave birth to their baby Preen, a vintage boutique, in the summer of 2007 on Congress Street. As of Wednesday they have moved their "baby" into their new space at 201 N. Fourth Avenue.
The new location provides a much bigger, much brighter space. Bradley and Marchand say the new digs are full of inspiration, and will bring new creative options for people shopping on Fourth Avenue.
"This boutique is different from all the other vintage shops in town; it’s a lifestyle boutique that’s in a category of its own," Marchand said.
“It’s not just the clothes, it’s the Erin and Emilie style that make Preen what it is."
The vintage racks are full of hidden treasures, the art on the walls and the vintage furniture are set up like somebody’s stylish living room anyone would envy, and there’s even a grand piano that serves as a shelf for local music CDs.
In the back of the store, Bradley worked on a dress she was remaking out of an old vintage piece as Bob Dylan’s "Mr. Tambourine Man" serenaded her. In addition to this dress, Bradley hopes to have a small number of her own pieces available for sale soon.
Owners Marchand and Bradley were forced out of their original space to make room for the upcoming restaurant and bar by Kwang C. An, owner of Great Wall China and former owner of Sakura. They said leaving Congress Street was bittersweet.
During the two years Preen was on Congress Street, Bradley and Marchand said they struggled to succeed and felt a loss of inspiration, but the forced change in location gave them a chance to recreate what they had envisioned Preen could once be at Congress.
“We really love Congress but downtown just wasn’t working for us, and as this location is just on the other side of the (Fourth Avenue) underpass, it’s a whole different game,” Bradley said.
In the new location, there is more foot traffic, meaning more shoppers and “real neighbors, not empty store-fronts like on Congress,” Bradley said.
With Preen leaving the strip of storefronts near Fifth Avenue, there are now six empty spaces along Congress Street, former homes of Metropolis Salon and Dinnerware Artspace among others, until April when construction is set to begin for the An restaurant.
"Being in a new space is like a second chance at succeeding," Marchand said. "This is the product of hard work and an original idea we had years ago."
Marchand, a New York native, has been in Tucson for ten years and had worked at a couple of the thrift stores on Fourth Avenue. That’s where she first met Bradley. The two had the idea to open up their own shop and offer more than just vintage clothes: they wanted to offer a lifestyle.
“That’s what we are. We’re a lifestyle shop,” Marchand said.
She went on to explain that the enterprise wasn’t just about what they wanted for themselves, but about what the shop could offer the community. Preen is a place where people can get wearable vintage clothing, shoes, accessories, music, and some items for their homes.
All with a touch of the “Emilie and Erin style” Merchand said.
Both women expressed their love and appreciation for Tucson’s vintage shops, and said there is a big clientele out there for vintage.
“We are truly inspired by all the shops down the avenue, the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. This is a district in itself and it challanges us to be more creative and to really let people know who we are,” Marchand said.
Preen is also an alterations shop. People can come in with a vintage find that needs alterations, or any item of clothing that needs a hem or zipper fixed and leave with it looking great. “So many times you find a great vintage piece but it’s ill fitting or the fabric is a little off, and that’s why we fix and sometimes almost re-make those pieces to fit the way you want them,” Bradley said.
“I couldn’t imagine having a store with anything new in it. It’s like my house. The thought of having clothes and furniture that’s brand new is totally weird to me. It would be like being surrounded by things that don’t have a soul, and here, everything we sell has a soul.”
The fitting rooms are another addition to the new location. Each one of the three small rooms, made out of scrap wood and doors from an old bed and breakfast in the Barrio Viejo, is one-of-a-kind, whimsical, and gives the place an extra touch of uniqueness.
“We birthed Preen and we just want to take care of it and love it so for us this is a great chance to make our baby even better, “ Bradley said.
Both women are very optimistic about the future of Preen. They said that after being evicted, and turned off by their experience on Congress Street, they learned that with the help of friends, community members and fellow merchants, anything is possible.
Many of those who helped Marchand and Bradley make Preen what it is today will be there to share its success later this week.