Two new vintage shops have opened at 9 Central St. in downtown Bangor within three weeks of each other, in two spacious second-floor suites packed with clothing, antiques, gently used items and local goods.
Red Rabbit Bazaar, owned by Bangor native Cara Oleksyk and offering lovingly curated vintage clothing, footwear and accessories, opened over the weekend in the space directly above The Grind House cafe.
Three weeks prior, Kathleen Murphy, owner of UniKue & OriJinals — pronounced “unique” — opened just down the hall from Oleksyk, offering vintage and antiques, gently used and upcycled items and local goods.
In the span of two months, downtown Bangor went from having no vintage shops to having three, starting with the October opening of White Lobster Vintage, owned by Chris Bryant and specializing in vintage t-shirts, sneakers, sports memorabilia and 1990s pop cultural items.
Technically, Murphy opened her shop in January, in a tiny space at 703 Main St., not far from the Hampden town line. But from almost day one, Murphy was bursting at the seams with inventory, and also always had her eye on downtown.
“That was always the goal. I love downtown and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I think we bring a really needed addition to the retail scene.”
UniKue & OriJinals offers a mix of local vendors renting booth space for their wares, consignment items and Murphy’s own items, sourced from estate sales, auctions and picking. It’s a mix between a traditional antique shop, a thrift store and a vintage boutique, where you can buy affordable home goods or toys right alongside handmade jewelry and body products, or collectible items and antique furniture.
“When I was a single mom trying to put myself through school, learning how to buy and sell things like this was how I made it work,” Murphy said. “I want to give that opportunity to other people, whether they have a few consignment items or rent a whole booth.”
Oleksyk has been an avid collector of vintage clothing for more than a decade, with a keen eye for finely made items, retro-hip finds and unusual, fabulous statement pieces. In the past, she has sold her vintage goods online and at former downtown shop Metropolitan Soul, and has been a regular vendor at the Maine Vintage Collective Market.
But for the past year, Oleksyk has been eagerly searching for a brick-and-mortar shop. She settled on the space at 9 Central, and has spent the past month transforming what was once a law office into a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing boutique, with handmade art on the walls and fun little details in each room.
“It was just time to take the plunge and find a place to be, permanently,” she said. “I looked at a million places, but this was big and affordable and really right.”
Eventually, Oleksyk plans to offer clothing made by Maine designers, and also plans to sell taxidermy that Oleksyk, a trained taxidermist, creates. She also wants to offer workshops on sewing and preserving old clothing.
“It’s all about reducing the waste stream, and repurposing great clothes that have lots of life left in them,” she said.
9 Central St., part of the block of buildings known as the Stetson Block, was purchased in September by Tim McClary and several other investors from longtime owner Paul Cook, who purchased it in 1999. The block includes 1 through 35 Central St., including Bagel Central and The Briar Patch, and 23 and 25 Hammond St., site of Bangor Sandwich Co. and, formerly, Bahaar Pakistani.
Street-level commercial space is at a premium in downtown these days, with most storefronts occupied, and rising rents pricing out some smaller, first-time business owners.
But there’s always room upstairs.
“Downtown isn’t going to be expanding outward anytime soon,” Murphy said. “But we can definitely go up. It just takes a little creativity.”
It’s hard to miss Oleksyk’s shop, with her signature red rabbit head in the window that directly faces Main Street, soon to be joined by a neon sign. And Murphy has packed her Central Street-side windows with an array of goodies from her shop. There are also several art studios and a dance studio located in the 9 Central building, and both Oleksyk and Murphy hope to collaborate with them on open studio hours.
“This could be a really cool place to come spend time, see art, buy local and support downtown,” Murphy said. “There are a ton of possibilities.”
Red Rabbit Bazaar is open 10 a.m-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays. UniKue & OriJinals is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.