“The story of VIX Emporium starts with a trip to the dentist in 2003. On the way to his appointment, Sean happened to walk by a lovely old storefront with a nifty curved front window. It was a former 1940s millinery, still containing its beautiful original built-in lighted cabinetry, show window and mirrors. It was a fancy boutique from another time. A “for sale” sign was written in pencil and taped to the door. The block and the surrounding area showed scars from blight, abandonment and the drug problem in the area, but Sean saw great potential in the space and the neighborhood. Sean (a graphic designer) and his wife Christine (artist, clothing designer and metalworker), decided to buy the building, and restore the damage done over the years. They would rent the upstairs apartments, and use the storefront to showcase Christine’s work and the work of other artists in the neighborhood. While maintaining their their full-time jobs, they opened the MiaLou, “artisan gallery and general store” on the weekends. (Story as told in the City Paper: http://citypaper.net/articles/2004-04-22/naked.shtml )
I was friendly with Sean and Christine and shopped at MiaLou when I could. Back then, I worked at a gift boutique on the Penn campus that was connected to a popular bar/restaurant. One night I happened to meet Sean in the bar after work and we chatted. He told me that sadly he and Christine would divorce, and the doors of MiaLou would be closing. Sean kept the building and moved in upstairs. We started seeing more of each other, and one thing led to another! We moved in together, into the space behind the store where I had once taken a MiaLou jewelry class.
I am a craftsperson myself with an extensive background in retail. I found myself blessed with a new, wonderful relationship with a man who owned a lovely empty store. Reopening it looked like the next logical step! Our neighborhood really lacked any nice places to shop, so I knew what I needed to do! I knew several other craftspeople who wanted to be included, and word traveled fast to many more, including many I met through Etsy, where I sell my own work (preciousmeshes.etsy.com).
We were dedicated to the handmade concept for three major reasons.
- 1. The
products are unique and inventive
- , made by friendly people we deal with directly.
2. Direct support of local artists benefits local economies which makes for greater sustainability.
3. Handmade work lends itself to a consignment model. Perfect for a beginning business allowing flexibility and keeping start-up costs down.
We changed the name to VIX, the Roman numeral for 5009 (its street address), and Emporium, to reflect diversity and variety, and opened in November 2007.
I now work in the store full-time along with our daughter, Nora, who was born in February 2009. It’s a lot of work and it’s not easy to juggle a store and a toddler (I am looking for the perfect intern, actually!), but I love being able to stay with her all day. The best part is meeting all the creative people (locally as well as online) who fill the space with their amazing work and connecting them to the tremendously supportive community members who appreciate it. It’s also great fun working with the vintage fixtures to try to present each collection at its best. VIX is truly a product of its eclectic West Philadelphia community. Our most popular item by far is Sean’s “West Philly” t-shirt design with “Baltimore 34” on the back, a shout-out to our trusty trolley line.
We regularly host events and openings to increase our visibility in the city and mingle with neighbors new and old. Some of whom remember the dress shop that was here in the 80s and 90s and even the millinery in decades before that. The neighborhood has seen a lot of improvements lately and new residents and new businesses have appeared. It is so wonderful to be a part of this neighborhood’s renaissance!”
5009 Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia PA 19143