For Vivant Vintage owner, Justin Pomerleau, everything came to a screeching halt in June of 2010. In the midst of his time at MassArt as a painting and interrelated media arts student, his house was burnt to the ground, leaving Pomerleau with no home, very few belongings, and an acutely wounded spirit. Little did he know of the significant gains and opportunity such a devastating loss would eventually bring him.
“I took a semester off to recover, mentally, physically, and spiritually, and in that time, I did a lot of contemplating and figured out that I wanted to dive head first into my art. Somehow that will to create has evolved over the past four years and turned into this store,” says Pomerleau referring to his recently opened brick and mortar vintage store on the corner of Lincoln and Franklin Streets in Lower Allston.
Despite his devastation, Pomerleau continued to have the work ethic of an ox and the enthusiasm of a kitten on cat nip; two characteristics that undoubtedly helped kickstart his vintage slinging business. Pomerleau has always been a hunter. He can recall sifting through bins and bins of gently used and vintage clothes from as early as the sixth grade, amounting an overwhelming surplus of shirts, motorcycle jackets, and leather boots. But it wasn’t until he was perusing a Salvation Army that Pomerleau had the ingenious idea to finally do something with his surplus of garments and pull a rack of clothes down the street, selling his vintage duds directly off the rack to people around the city. Within three months, The Pants King was born.
“I started The Pant’s King the semester I went back to school, exactly one year after the fire,” recalls Pomerleau. “It took me three months to build my cart – AKA ‘The Traveling Spectacular’ – with my dad. We worked on it ten hours a day, and built it from the ground up.”
Made out of electrical conduit piping wrapped in strapping, the cart sits about six feet tall, seven feet long, and three feet wide, and quickly became a staple to Pomerleau’s vintage peddling persona and brand. From SoWa Vintage Market in the South End to Starlab Festival in Somerville, Pomerleau and his traveling retro offerings had locals and bargain hunters longing for his unique array of secondhand apparel, accessories, and footwear.
But as fun and entertaining as The Traveling Spectacular proved for customers and Pomerleau himself, the cart alone was not economical for the amount of inventory and business The Pants King was starting to muster.
Now, Pomerleau’s Traveling Spectacular resides in Allston, within the maroon colored building labeled “Vivant Vintage,” and under the decorative tile ceiling that gives the quaint corner shop a refined and Brooklyn bar type vibe.
“There was a lot going on inside this place before we even opened our doors, from gutting and remodeling the inside to painting the mural on the outside of the building,” says Pomerleau. “People could see there were things going on, so it built up a natural curiosity. On our opening day we did almost four times our goal.”
Vivant Vinatge’s old-meets-new Americana aesthetic has had us, customers, and even his many imitators swooning. Brimming with retro garb, Vivant Vintage is sure to become every retro-inspired style star’s secret weapon. On offer: art, furniture, clothes, accessories and odds and ends of all sorts that embody the kind of effortless cool that makes others take notice.
“It seems like we’ve been getting a great response form the neighborhood, which is a top priority of mine,” says Pomerleau. “I want to be respectful to my neighbors; not just the young neighbors but also the people that live here with their families.”
Pomerleau’s quaint corner shop is more than just an impeccable collection of desirous clothing and accessories, it also houses his inspirations and tidbits into his artistic background that combines art and fashion in an intriguing and inspiring way. The store, like Pomerleau, is wildly unique and full of personality, boasting carefully considered and beautifully designed displays that quite obviously show off Pomerleau’s underlying artistic vision and aesthetic for his brand. For Pomerleau, Vivant Vintage represents the convergence of two very important worlds that he has always inhabited: art and antique collecting.
“I’m primarily an assemblage painter, so I use objects to form a composition,” says Pomerleau. “This store is kind of like the same thing for me. I think it comes through in my displays – the large handmade hanging ‘Vivant Vintage’ banner, chandeliers of bow-ties hanging from the ceilings, well-curated racks of clothes. There’s a big difference between young dealers and the old way of setting things up and doing things. Everything I do is sort of a performance, especially when I take out the cart. The performance aspect of it all makes the business more interesting to me and allows me to be more free and true to what I want to do by creating a character.”
If you’ve never met Justin Pomerleau of Vivant Vintage, you should shake a leg, make a trip to Allston and do so. Besides boasting Boston’s largest selection of motorcycle jackets, vintage revelers can soon expect to find a plethora of affordably priced black & white and color film, a hefty selection of local vinyl from local artists, and a vintage Dr. Mario arcade machine. You can expect some more righteous duds from Vivant Vintage, just in time for the tail end of summer and those late night porch hang outs, backyard BBQs and trips to beach.
Check out Vivant Vintage at 318 Lincoln St. in Allston, open Wednesday-Sunday, 12pm-8pm.