GTPulse: Traverse City Vintage Shop Curated with Inspiration from Americana and Environment
Fashion trends come and go, but vintage is forever. For most of my millennial youth, fast fashion from big box stores digitally lurks around every social media corner. The clothing from all the social media advertisements is often on sale, likely because what’s on-trend has a quick turnaround. What the kids were wearing last week is no longer acceptable to wear this week. I’m a big proponent of secondhand shopping. It’s better for the environment, it’s cheaper and it’s a treasure hunt for finding vintage clothing. Parker Ameel shares my love for vintage. In fact, he loves it so much that he found a way to do it all the time by opening up his own shop, Fish and Whistle Vintage.
“Fish and Whistle is a song by John Prine. He’s a singer-songwriter that came into prominence in the 70s’ in Chicago. He’s a midwestern guy, he was a mailman. He’s the most sweetheart man ever, I’ve never met him but I know this about him.”
Parker’s interest in vintage music is a direct influence on his shop, but also his love for environmental health. He grew up in Boyne City with an interest in nature. He carried his interest over into an education at Northern Michigan University where he graduated with a degree in environmental conservation. He used his passion for the planet and education to work on a farm in Wisconsin through AmeriCorps for a year.
“Monica, my girlfriend, was just finishing school and it was sort of a natural transition.”
“I didn’t start selling vintage until I lived in Chicago. But, when I was a kid, and this goes back to the environmental thing, I refused to buy anything new. There’s so much cool stuff out there and I was really into music and band tee shirts, and jerseys of my sports idols from the 70s’ and 80s’.”
He put a few pieces on Etsy and things began to sell. He was further motivated to sell when his mom gave him a big box of vintage ski patches that sold really well. His parents spent time in Colorado as school teachers before Parker was born and a student’s parent gifted Parker’s mom with a box of patches while they lived there.
“When she moved to Michigan she brought them with her, and now they’re worth money. So that helped generate some income to put back into this business.”
As many young, Northern Michigan-raised folks do, Parker came home. This time not to Boyne City but to Traverse City.
“We weren’t necessarily looking to come back to Michigan. One of my aunt’s sent me a job posting and it was exactly what I love to do.”
The job is at the Grand Traverse Conservation District where Parker continues to work with the environment’s best interests by working with Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program to help assess farm risks like erosion and nutrient management. The dream gig also provided a dream setting for his vintage obsession. Traverse City’s eclectic, creative and accessible small-town vibes were a perfect setting for Parker to grow Fish and Whistle Vintage.
He curates his shop with vintage clothes from all eras. Pendleton wools, Western-style shirts studded with pearl buttons, skirt sets fit for Jackie Kennedy, and everything in between. When he started collecting vintage it was clothing that he was interested in wearing. He still collects and sells men’s vintage fashion, but women’s clothing takes a bigger bulk of the shop now.
He’s gotten his thrifting technique down to a science. No longer looking through each and every item on the rack has sped up his buying process. Winter is a quieter season for the shop because Parker sells his items through local pop-up shops.
“You meet other people who sell vintage and do pop-ups with them and the whole community talks about how we sell the clothes to feed our obsession with finding them.”
He doesn’t model the clothes, he leaves that to his partner Monica Stokes. The thought of having a significant other that wants you to try on fabulous vintage clothing all the time was thrilling to me. I commented on how I would fall prey to wanting to keep things that I tried on. Parker looked at Monica and grinned.
“Oh yeah, that happens,” he said.
Parker has men’s clothes for sale at Men’s Emporium in Traverse City, as well as Empirenblu. He isn’t resistant to keeping items that he falls in love with either, with his favorite vintage pieces being denim jackets.
“You go into these big box stores and that clothing has been curated a certain way by how they want you to look. The fun thing about going to a vintage store or a secondhand store is you can be whoever you wanna be. There are millions of different brands from different eras, you’re not being told. I think there’s a lot of power in taking ownership in how you look.”