Krispy Fringe, Vintage Bazaar and more put their spin on vintage shopping

By Brianna Wellen

In a Lincoln Square boutique, a customer admires a vintage dress with a modern industrial zipper up the side. Holding the garment against her frame, she wants a few adjustments and an antique handbag to complete the outfit.Instead of simply wishing, she lists her specific requests on the boutique’s customer wish list, which is covered with handwritten yens for typewriters and 1960s Chanel. Kristy Kladzyk and Sara McIntosh, owners of Krispy Fringe, 4725 N. Damen Ave., prepare to hunt down each item.

With Chicago’s vintage community growing every day, more resources are available for interested buyers in brick and mortar shops and online stores. Lately, sellers cater directly to the customer’s requests and provide a style service for local vintage enthusiasts by bringing specific items right to them.

“There’s this middleman growing in Chicago who has turned [finding and selling vintage] into a small, home-run business,” said Katherine Raz, owner of Back Garage and creator of Vintage Bazaar. “Chicago’s been supportive of that middleman, and it’s created a community built around that.”

Raz started Vintage Bazaar with friend Libby Alexander in February 2010 to provide what she saw as a hole in the vintage market—a place between the thrift shop and the antique mall. At Vintage Bazaar, vendors who normally have an online presence with sites like and are able to create a bond with their customers and build a clientele. They’re also able to connect with other sellers in the community to use as resources in the future, Raz said.

While Bazaar is held biannually, Krispy Fringe works to provide a similar atmosphere every day. Working as team, Kladzyk and McIntosh have created their brand of vintage couture adding leather statements and unexpected zippers to classic pieces and silhouettes. The makeup of the store revolves around McIntosh’s shoe cobbling station, where she creates the store’s line of boots and shoes. Kladzyk brings her design-eye to the table, offering suggestions for the shoe’s look to fit the store’s style, while McIntosh provides the construction skills, adding leather accents and buckles as her signature style. By working in front of the customers, she hopes to build interest in the burgeoning line.

Vintage pieces such as typewriters, old rocking horses and 45s are featured in the shop. Similar items are among the hidden inventory they search through by customer request. Along racks of clothing are original vintage garments with Kladzyk’s pieces scattered throughout. Ties, shoes and purses are perched along the walls with a pathway leading straight to the wish list table where an eager employee—or McIntosh and Kladzyk—is available to address additional requests of their clientele.

“They say, I’m collecting this or I’m looking for this kind of dress in size … and we can check our inventory and check with our friends and see if we can supply that for people,” McIntosh said. “Then if someone says, ‘I love this, I just want it two inches longer,’ then we can make that.”

Along with personally catering to the customers’ needs, Krispy Fringe also strives to provide styling services and special events. In the future, Kladzyk and McIntosh hope to hold store events in the vein of tea and dress-up parties so customers can try on things they wouldn’t normally think to look at. In the meantime, the shop’s employees act as stylists to create a different, more fun atmosphere than a typical thrift store.

“Everyone who is part of Krispy Fringe has their own style; people come in and they help them get dressed,” Kladzyk said. “It’s just nice to have someone put you in something you wouldn’t normally wear … and you like it.”

Likewise, at Raz’s day-to-day shop Back Garage, in the Albany Park neighborhood, where she finds antique furniture and repurposes it to fit the aesthetic of her customer base. Using her website as a networking tool, she allows people from all across the country to contact her to inquire about specific items. She’ll hunt down items at locations she’s familiar with in the Midwest.

“When you go to a thrift store you really have to dig, and it’s not being presented to the customer as this final product,” Raz said. “My customers who shop at my store, they’re people who don’t necessarily want to do the digging.”

Collector Karyn Dethrow has racks of her vintage clothing at boutiques around the city, including Krispy Fringe, and has sold her clothes at Vintage Bazaar and pop-up boutiques at Vintage Heaven, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave. When she started an store under the name Dethrose Vintage, she sold four out of the 20 items listed in one night and decided to make a serious career move by selling vintage—something she considered a hobby in her youth.

Though her original collection started as items primarily from the ’80s and ’90s, once she built her customer base, her products were adjusted to fit their needs. Unlike the revamped looks of Krispy Fringe and Back Garage, Dethrow strives to keep her looks as authentic as possible to meet her clients’ needs. When a look isn’t available in her immediate collection, she said she’s not afraid to search for what the client seeks. But she doesn’t incorporate her designs like Kladzyk and McIntosh. Any alterations made are often to restore the item to its original construction.

“I get requests for things I just happen to have and if I don’t, I know where I can go look for them,” Dethrow said. “I’ve seen a huge request for the look of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and the look of ‘Mad Men,’ so I’ve been looking a little bit more for that. I find more of those at smaller places you wouldn’t even think of looking.”

These vintage sellers agree an organized display is one of the easiest ways to cater to customers’ needs. Having put together and repurposed vintage items presented in more accessible ways separates them from the daunting appearance of thrift stores if the products were originally found at one.

According to Raz, the business is growing into collectors anticipating customer needs, searching through the outlets customers used to search through and bringing items to the customer.

“It’s a good scene here, and it’s a really supportive community,” Raz said. “People understand what [finding and selling vintage] is, so there is a lot of room for it to grow. Every week it seems like there’s a new person making this their full-time business.”