Back Issue__ Thunderhorse Vintage

May 03, 2010 | By

"We love being able to collect, display, and arrange our findings, the Holy Grail of past eras— the 1940s umbrella with Lucite handle, amazing men’s ’70s salmon pink Levis Sta-Prest pants, Blade Runner Italian leather moto jackets, or the Slimer Flouride and MCHammer Toothpaste that came from local Kepi Ghoulie during Groovie Ghoulies tours and travels."

What happened to vintage? Everywhere you look, vintage shops are closing shop for good, while Value Village thinks it's acceptable to charge $8.99 for a misshapen, pilled t-shirt. At least we can count on Marilyn and Jen Ares to carry the vintage torch by tending to the flame at Thunderhouse Vintage, the heart of Sacramento's subculture. The Ares sisters— identical twins who have recently been living separate lives as Jen continues her graduate work in feminist ethnographic studies in New York— are the founders of this quaint treasure chest of a shop.

After graduating in 2008, from UC Davis with majors in Women Studies, Marilyn and Jen knew that a regular 9-5 wouldn't work for them, so they took their compulsive collecting of jewelry, clothing, videos, records and trinkets and turned it into a business. Jen started a small vintage outlet in the back of another store, but it grew quickly and successfully soon requiring it's own space. "Jen and I decided to combine forces and that force is now Thunderhorse Vintage," smiles Marilyn.

"It was a bleak future," explains Jen referring to the prospect of ten dollars an hour for casual employment. "Especially in a recession, that had to be resisted because the lack of creative expression and freedom would just be soul crushing."

Besides providing a place where customers can find everything from original 1980s silver biker rings, 1930s cocktail dresses and sleazy thrash enamel pins, the cultural mission statement behind the store is what makes Thunderhorse different from the rest.

"Seeing the flight of ambitious, artistic, unique kids to the Bay Area, up north to Oregon and Washington, makes us wonder how much radder Sacramento would be if people had stayed," explains Jen. "If some sort of visible, recognizable, community could be built if only resources were pooled." Since San Fransisco, Los Angeles and Portland are no more than six hours away, most creatives on the outs tend to leave for bigger, better places. Marilyn and Jen were determined to keep a place to represent the other side of normal, a symbol that subculture still exists amongst the "18 million fucking frozen yogurt shops" that nestle between the wine bars and family homes.

"Unemployment is at a reported 13%," says Marilyn, flicking her neon pink hair out of her face. "There are no jobs for young kids and certainly no jobs for people who look like me."

"If you're dedicated to creating culture, and not just consuming and exploiting its products, there’s almost an intrinsic level of masochism for any do-it-yourself cultural project like what we're interested in: With the store, art, and music projects we're always wondering is there anyone here that gets this, that gets our references, our cultures?"

And the answer is yes, the scene in Sacramento is small, but there are many talented bands, artists and performers emerging out of the alphabetically mapped town: MOM, Ganglians and Marilyn's band, Verräterisch.

In the store you can find anything from 1930s-1980s clothing staples to obscure punk, new wave and metal records to 1950s mosaic lamps to 1984 Iron Maiden tapestry, to 1970s velvet paintings, motorcycle boots to disco shoes. The walls are covered with art and posters, there is a coffee table cluttered with ancient zines and art books, plus a changing area that looks like something from rock n' roll Barbie's playhouse. The stereo is always blasting with music— Blank Dogs, Slayer or Modern Creatures are favorites— and most importantly, Marilyn is the shop mascot; chatting with any customer and explaining the precious stories behind each item.

"We could give a fuck what sells," says Marilyn. "We just hope that someone will fall in love and take something home."

Employees: Jason, Kimber, Victor, Mitchiko, Lindsey, Carla & MOM.

Where are you located: 2252 J Street, Sacramento, CA

Some brands you carry: Vintage only!

Nearby lunch spots: Sugar Plum Vegan Café, La Fiesta Tacoria, Louigie's Pizza

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