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Meet Robbie Prater and Amy Wheeler of Unusual Retail

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robbie Prater and Amy Wheeler.

Hi Robbie and Amy, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Robbie: I remember during the late 1990’s, friends and I used to go to thrift stores after school to hunt down bell bottoms and ironic ringer tees. The 70’s were huge then, especially bell bottoms, and they were going for big money. I think that was my first taste of reselling clothes. I started buying and selling thrifted items again in 2016, then switched to 100% vintage by 2018. But the story doesn’t really begin until October 2020 when I met Amy. I was mostly doing small events and selling on eBay at the time, making a little money, but not much. Putting myself out there and marketing isn’t really my strongest trait. My background is in retail management, operations, and analytics. I spent fifteen years as a retail manager, and that experience definitely helped. I can say I know a ton about pop culture from the mid 1990’s to present. Building a brand was a challenge before Amy came into my life.

Amy: I have always been interested in fashion. Growing up, everyone used to tell me I was born in the wrong generation due to the way I dressed. When kids were going to summer camp, I was going to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to learn the ins and outs of the industry. In high school, I took a lot of classes on both Fashion Design and Merchandising. It was then that I realized I preferred the business side of the industry. It was no surprise when I ended up attending the University of North Texas to pursue a degree in Merchandising. Shortly before graduation, they introduced a Digital Retailing program to help give us a deeper insight to eCommerce. Upon graduating, I worked as a Merchandiser and Assistant Buyer for Big Box Retailers with an emphasis on their eCommerce divisions. I ended up leaving the industry after three years due to the pay and started working in Digital Marketing. When I met Robbie, we immediately connected over our passion for retail, the 1960s and fashion. I am so grateful to have met him because he reignited my love for fashion and has allowed me to come in and help where I can. I think we work so well together because we both have different background experiences in the industry and understand that we have a lot to learn and teach each other. Together we really are a dream team.

Robbie: From the start, Amy has been the perfect partner (in more ways than one). We have taught each other a lot. I have shown her how to protect your margins and buying at a low price, and she has shown me how SEO works. Plus, she is great at making connections with people, she has become the face of the business and makes me more at ease putting myself out there. The business has grown its social media presence, a legitimate website, and our fashion pieces are pretty awesome.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Robbie: Buying and selling clothes is pretty fun. It’s kind of hard to complain about having an extra closet to wear.

I think the hardest part was the same for a lot of people in 2020…COVID. Right when I had started to gain traction with local events, everything shut down. This was my primary source of income, so I had to swallow some pride and let my parents help me. Not easy being in your thirties and having to rely on my mom, but at the same time I’m grateful for the support. Online sales were okay for a while during the pandemic, but the loss of doing pop up events at local markets really hurt. I wasn’t eligible for PPP Loans or unemployment, so I was in a huge hole by the time everything started to open back up. My savings were depleted, lost credit cards, and gained a lot of debt. It’s been a slow climb back up since then.

We both try to remain positive and look for solutions and new ways to improve anytime we experience a roadblock. I think our attitude towards life, problems, and other people gets recognized by our peers.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Unusual Retail is a vintage clothing store that specializes in 1960s/70s men’s and women’s fashion. Although we specialize in 1960s/70s fashion, we are firm believers in not niching down a niche market. Vintage is our niche and we love the 60s and 70s, but we have something for everyone when you shop with us. Most vintage resellers in DFW sell one thing; sports/streetwear, fashion, band memorabilia, home décor or furniture. We want people to come into our store and feel they are seen. We offer a little bit of all the previous listed items in a large variety of size ranges. After many pop-up events and people asking to shop us more than a few times a month/outdoors, we decided to turn a portion of our home into a store. We recently launched private shopping appointments for individuals and small groups. Book an appointment on our website or on Instagram, we’d love for you to come hang. I think something we are most proud of is the way we really try to connect with our community. Whether we know you from pop up events or Instagram, we will support you and include you in insider things such as private Estate Sales, hoarder houses, hidden thrift stores, or vintage swaps/networking events we host at our home. We don’t just stop at connecting with resellers. Anytime we buy a large amount from someone’s estate after they have passed, we want to know the story about the individual who owned the items so we can pass on the story to our customers. We really do care about the history and the previous owners. Some of our customers have pictures of the original owner wearing the item they bought from us and show their friends and strangers who ask about their garment, they are truly carrying on a piece of history. To read some of the stories, you can check out our blog on our website.

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
Robbie: I was born and raised here, I have always been proud of being from Dallas, Texas. I think the best thing about Dallas is it’s a huge city with so much culture, yet you still get small-town southern charm at times. Dallas is always looking towards the future, it always seems like a cutting-edge city. What I like least is it’s very fast-paced at times, and sometimes I want to be laid back and chill.

Amy: I was born and raised in DFW. I like to say that I have done the tour de DFW – living in Arlington, Fort Worth, Denton, Dallas, The Colony and Plano. My favorite thing about living in Dallas is the history. Robbie and I live in Munger Historic District in a historic home built in 1905, later separated into four different apartment units. The place hasn’t changed, still has the original hardwood floors and claw foot tub. One of our neighbors is a self-named Dallas Historian and has the coolest items and stories. The city may be big, but the community is tight-knit and we count on each other to carry on when the going gets tough. The amount of support we have from our neighborhood, reselling community and family/friends is so heartwarming.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Cayla Coomer Photography

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