New Kids On the Block: Whistling Princess brings vintage style downtown.

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The historic W.A. Knight Building has been through several incarnations since it was built back in 1926. The upper floors currently houses some of the most interesting apartment-spaces in the city’s urban core, while its ground-floor was best-known as the home of Chew, one of the city’s best restaurants and anchor in the mini-renaissance that’s happened downtown over the past decade. But now, with Chew closed, destined for relocation into the new complex being built by its owners in Five Points, Adams Street now sees its identity changing.

The newest addition to Adams Street is the Whistling Princess, which proprietor Lynn Alaia describes as a “boutique thrift-store”. For years, Alaia (who also works right around the corner at Chamblin Uptown) has evolved her hobby of collecting vintage clothing into a viable business, run through her Etsy.com store, “ThriftShark”. It’s a more than just a nickname for her—it’s a brand. She spends countless hours scouring the region’s thrift-stores, estate sales, etc. (usually while wearing gloves) in search of the kind of unique and valuable rarities she stocks online. Over time, the stock overwhelmed her Riverside apartment, so she decided to put some of it into a store-front, which saved her space at home while opening new avenues to promote and expand upon the online business. Sitting just yards away from Laura Street, it would be almost impossible to find a more highly-visible location.

Whistling Princess appeals to the same clientele, but with an emphasis on accessibility and rapid turnover. Most items in the store cost less than $20, and nothing costs more than $40. There will be bins of items for $5 and even just $1; there are rumors that they might actually have a bin of free stuff, which can only be had if the customer consents to be photographed wearing it out of the store. (I suggested calling it “the Blackmail Bin”.)

The store also carries items from Burro Bags, as well as jewelry hand-made by Rayna Reichstadter (who also maintains an Etsy store: “BijuBee”); her husband Richard is caretaker of the building and a driving force behind many of the art-shows, concerts and such featured in the space to-date. With his father and brother both veteran jewelers themselves, it’s no surprise that his wife has taken to the art so adeptly, and in less than a year, at that. They will also be hosting monthly vegan dinners prepared by Dig Foods, whose products have already attracted a passionate following from working ArtWalk in the same space. It will instructive to see how this project proceeds through 2012.

http://www.etsy.com/people/ThriftShark

http://www.etsy.com/shop/BijuBee

http://www.etsy.com/shop/Magickwrapper

sheltonhull@gmail.com; January 19, 2012

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