CITY OF TONAWANDA: Store offers old styles in new clothing
By Daniel Pye
The Tonawanda News
City of Tonawanda seniors walking down Main Street this weekend will see a new shop that reminds them of old times.
Cats Like Us, the newest addition to the city’s main drag, features the fashions of the ‘40s, ’50s and ’60s blended with all kinds of other accessories that hearken back to the good old days. It took Andrew and Julie Anne Davis two months to get the place up and running, from new paint to a black-and-white checkered floor, but now it’s ready for the public.
Andrew said he’s the owner, but Julie Ann is the boss. It was her idea, after all, to start a vintage clothing store of her own. But that notion ran into plenty of snags. For starters, finding, buying, cleaning and repairing vintage clothing is a costly and time-consuming undertaking. And even if all the vintage clothes are accumulated and ready for sale, the size of modern people drastically limits the customer base.
The problem is people were much smaller way back when, both horizontally and vertically.
“I’m a size 12 in vintage clothes, but in modern sizes I wear a 6,” Julie Ann said. “When people say Marilyn Monroe was a size 14, well, today she’d be a size 8.”
So having only vintage clothes means mostly tiny people can buy them. Bigger people just made their own clothes in times past, Julie Ann said.
The idea lingered until the couple went to Las Vegas for a convention and trade show that appealed to their particular style. While there, they saw plenty of classic-looking clothes made by modern companies. Ordering new clothes made in throwback styles allows Cats Like Us to offer classic flair in up to XXL.
In addition to coming in bigger sizes, the clothes are also made out of modern materials. Julie Ann said that means items stretch and breathe better than older fabrics, making them more comfortable and versatile. She’s hopeful the looks will have appeal across generational lines since there are timeless items mixed in among the more dated looks.
“Older ladies come in looking for an Elvis shirt, the punks can come in for a leopard-print pencil skirt and high school students can get cherry earrings,” Julie Ann said.
Socks, bracelets, jewelry, drink shakers, buttons, car air fresheners and old-fashioned pomade are also available, but the storefront itself is only part of the picture. Andrew’s expertise lies in Web site development, and he hopes to have catslikeus.com up and running as a globally-available store. While it isn’t necessarily the first of its kind, Julie Ann said the site will do unique things.
“Web sites sell similar things, but they usually stick to one company,” Julie Ann said. “We try to pull from everywhere.”
And while the store’s suppliers are mostly from places like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hollywood and New Jersey, there are some local items mixed in with hopes of more to come. The selection of purses, for example, are handcrafted by a West Seneca woman under the name Dungaree Dolly.
To promote the place, the Davises are planning monthly events to engage the community. Whether it’s a swing dance, a trunk show or a pin-up makeover party, they’re looking to shake things up and draw in all types. Even babies are a target market, with a tiny T-shirt bearing the face of Frankenstein’s monster along with the tongue-in-cheek line “Going green - made from recycled parts.”
Andrew said they put the store in Tonawanda because they think the Main Street area is on the rise. Cats Like Us has already had visitors coming from Toronto who said they have a similar store back home, but the prices are much higher. And while it’s always risky to start a business, especially in a recession, Andrew said he likes the odds.
“When it hits again, we’re going to be very well positioned,” he said. “We’ll have our business in place, our system in place and our Web site in place.”
Contact reporter: Daniel Pye at 693-1000, ext. 158.