Then again, the rules in this business--like every other--are a-changin'. Consider Tace Chalfa, 26, formerly a partner in Seattle's fabled Red Light vintage clothing store. Recently, Chalfa and her former partner ditched the store for cool cash. Now Chalfa operates online at http://www.vintageclothes.com
Chalfa is proof positive of the potential in this market. While at Red Light, she developed an accidental specialty in vintage sneakers. She bought her first pair of 1978 Nike Stings for $50, with little thought to their investment value. "I put them in the [display] case, and every kid who came in wanted to buy those shoes," says Chalfa. "They were begging, pleading, but for some reason I held out. Finally, some kid came in and said, `Please, let me buy those shoes for $1,000.' What could I say? They were sold."
Recognizing an opportunity when she saw one, Chalfa boned up on vintage sneakers. Apparently, there was a brisk trade with Japan, where young trendsetters couldn't get enough of old Nikes and Adidases. Chalfa's inventory was limited, but she was resourceful. "I started calling people who had been featured in old [sports] magazines," she recalls. "I told them I bought old sneakers for cash and asked them if they had any in their closets. A lot of times they did."
So many times, in fact, that Chalfa's little sneaker business took in $450,000 in 1998. She recently released an infomercial and a video about buying and selling vintage goods (Rags to Riches, $29.95, 800-723-6335) and is hoping to open a new store in Portland, Oregon. Says Chalfa, "There's so much potential [in the vintage market]. I mean, who would have imagined that old sneakers would be worth all that?"