The importance of sustainable shopping and the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle have been emphasized to the general public for years. Environmental movements have identified many issues associated with fast fashion and the mass production industry. For college students especially, finding affordable and sustainable items, and finding places to donate used or upcycled items, can often be a struggle. Consignment and second-hand stores offer one work-around to this dilemma. These stores typically source vintage products and display locally produced items.
Indy’s very own Retro Metro is the epitome of such a concept. This consignment-based store hosts around 50 local artists, and is based in an ‘upcycled’ house that had been vacant for a few years.
Cindy Shamo, the owner of Retro Metro, began her business after being out of retail for years, raising her children. She started Retro Metro with a friend, Tori Sandler, who had a background in upcycling and repurposing. This became their mission statement: to upcycle and repurpose items, find vintage, buy local and represent local artists.
Something that is unique about Retro Metro, as opposed to an antique mall or a thrift store, is that they curate everything together. The floor plan of Retro Metro is not separated wholly by either clothing, trinkets, art or home décor; rather, the layout allows customers to see how they would use certain products in their own homes.
When asked what Retro Metro means to her, Shamo said “It’s just trying to be part of a community that supports locally, and is just creative and fun and offers a great place for people to come shop.”
Shamo sources her vintage and other products from local Indianapolis artists.
“For me, personally, when I source, I look at design, I look at quality and sometimes I look at sense of humor,” Shamo said. “Whatever I think is cool, different, and unique is what I purchase to bring in.”
The process of finding local Indianapolis artists and vendors started out through word of mouth.
“It started kind of organically; we had a little call out, and we had maybe two or three artists initially start with us,” Shamo said. “And of course, they have friends who have friends and before we knew it, we had just this really great collection. And then, as we’ve grown, and people have found out about us, they come to us and want to have their items in the store ... We've gotten so lucky with the vendors that we represent.”
Retro Metro hosts vendors with a wide range of experience; some of their artists and vendors, such as Arondite Vintage, have been pursuing their crafts professionally for years, while others are first-timers. This lends to a unique perspective and selection.
Shamo describes the wide demographic of customers that come into the store.
“There’s items that, I think ‘Who is ever going to buy this?’, and it's always the perfect person that comes in and buys it.” Shamo said. “It's like the perfect item is just waiting for them and there is no rhyme or reason to it.”
Shopping second-hand will not single-handedly eliminate global warming, but it will help reduce personal waste, and perhaps serve as an avenue to finding a hidden gem. Indianapolis businesses, like Retro Metro, provide such opportunities.
Sahar Abdullah (she/her) is a senior at IUPUI, majoring in Biomedical Informatics with minors in Literature and Chemistry. She is the Culture Editor of The Campus Citizen.