While writing our book ThriftStyle, and continuing through today, we’ve visited several hundred resale stores from coast to coast. But every so often, we are completely overwhelmed by the offerings and style of a distinctive store. We had this experience in Sarasota, FL, at the remarkable Canned Ham Vintage & Loyal Modern in the downtown Rosemary District.
This artistically-decorated store is filled with dazzling clothing, midcentury furniture, an entire kitchen of housewares from the 1920s to 1960s, vinyl records, luggage, hats and jewelry. Nearly everything is in mint condition and does not bear the astronomical price tags usually found on such high-quality vintage goods.
The shop gets its unforgettable name from a restored silver Shasta trailer, circa 1963, parked outside the tidy heritage cottage that houses the store. “These vacation trailers looked like the tins containing canned hams,” said shop owner Ashley Rogers, “so we just went with the name.”
Rogers, an art school graduate who worked multiple jobs to get the shop launched, relies on her mother, Sheri McNulty, a former upholsterer, for her sewing and craft expertise in repairing and reclaiming many of their vintage goods. Nearly everything is hand washed and repaired before it reaches the racks. McNulty also has trained herself to be an expert picker at estate sales.
The pair, along with Alex Lenza, Rogers’ fiancée, who providently is a carpenter and handyman, created the appealing interior of a formerly vacant historic home. It’s a frame cottage that was built in 1926 by Leonard Reid, an African-American employee of John Hamilton Gillespie, a Scottish immigrant who was the city’s first mayor.
The Ham is rented out for fashion shows, parties and weddings, where it’s outfitted to match the theme (tiki, Hawaiian, 1920s bathtub gin, 1970s disco, etc.) Photo booths frequently are set up inside.
Rogers spent a year scanning eBay before she found a Shasta trailer in good shape, affordable and not too distant. (Hers came from Georgia.) Again, thanks to her talented family, the Ham was refurbished expertly by her father, Mike McNulty, a car body shop operator.
Rogers started in the vintage business tentatively, running a small store in 2014 in office space featuring her garage sale, estate sale and thrift store finds. It was tiny and so packed with items that there was room for only one sales clerk. Her future father-in-law walked her a few blocks to the empty historic home and urged her to lease it.
At nearly 1,500 square feet, the house was too big for Rogers to fill with inventory. Her friend, Jess Sturtevant, owner of a now 13-year-old shop, Braden River Antiques, in Bradenton, FL, gave her artwork, furniture and vintage accessories to furnish the new space. Now, thanks to Rogers and her mom scouring estate sales and regular trips to three semi-secret warehouses for vintage wholesalers, the shop is filled to capacity. In addition to the display areas, there’s a large changing room for bachelorette buying parties and a sewing and repair room.
As the shop’s reputation grew during its two years of operation, Rogers began providing personal shopping services to many of the city’s many charity ball organizers and attendees. Like an old-school dress shop, she takes appointments, requests and shops for regulars.
Upscale department stores and fancy boutiques offer to dress these often-photographed Sarasota women, but many bypass offers of new couture gowns for the eye-catching rare dresses that Rogers and her pickers have found. You stand out wearing a 1950s wiggle dress with a boa.
“I buy wearable vintage,” Rogers notes. “People can dance in these gowns. They create a lot of buzz because they’re unique.”
Further, Rogers organizes 28 vendors each month, from November to May, into the Rosemary District Indie Market, held on the adjoining field she rents. These Saturday markets draw hundreds of shoppers interested in handcrafts, vintage items, live music and a food truck selling bubble tea. It’s the kind of community-building event that’s bringing new life to an old city neighborhood that’s been in need of foot traffic and flair.
The District has become so attractive to new arrivals looking for bargains among its historic bungalows and old-growth neighborhoods that developers have moved in. Because of its historic value, the house holding Rogers’ shop is slated to be moved, not demolished, sometime after November.
The success of the store will ensure its continuation, Rogers says, but its new location is not yet known.
Those outside of Sarasota can access the store’s wares over Instagram. Vintage box purses, classic colored Pyrex bowls and hats have been sent to online customers, with Rogers shipping items as far afield as Japan.
“We educated ourselves on all the brands and styles, from clothes to furniture to kitchenware,” Rogers said. “I finally could quit my other jobs to devote all my hours here.”
The city and vintage shoppers are fortunate that she has.
Canned Ham Vintage & Loyal Modern, 1435 7th St., Sarasota, FL 34236. 941-313-1280. Open Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Instagram: CannedHamVintage www.facebook.com/cannedhamvintage