A stuffed, winged monkey peeks from a storefront window while a black and white image of a 1950s-era twister threatening Oak Cliff adorns an inside wall. The pairing might seem unusual, but it's at home among a hoard of vintage oddities waiting to be discovered at Dolly on Bishop. The store, Dolly Python’s second location, opened this summer at 315 N. Bishop Ave.
At a nearby bistro, the shop’s owner, Gretchen Hinkle, 44, reminisces about life before and after her plunge into the world of vintage retail. Hinkle, who grew up in Dallas, says she’d landed a job as an assistant for a fashion retailer and learned all she could while managing other vintage shops around Dallas.
“Of course, I worked my ass off,” she says, adding that after saving enough money, she launched her own store in 2005.
“The landlords [here] are customers of our other store,” Hinkle says, noting that the approximately 1,200-square-foot shop is more curated than Dolly Python’s 3,800-square-foot trove over on Haskell Avenue.
“I focus more on vintage items, vintage clothing, cowboy boots, toys — jewelry is a huge one,” she says. “It’s mostly smalls over here. And then we do vintage vinyl as well.”
Back inside the store, Hinkle elaborates on what she calls “a repurposed quilt,” with its hand-sewn skeleton on display by the register. Along with the vinyl and vintage garb, there’s also an assortment of Milagros, which she says are small, charm symbols based on “energies, good luck, bad luck, spirits, like, if you want a good crop or health or love.”
Dolly’s success, she insists, depends a lot upon supply, demand and trends.
“We live in a society today where you’re just taught to buy and consume,” Hinkle says. “People have to make room, so they’re constantly discarding things.”
The three D's: downsizing, dying or divorcing, often motivate people to sell their stuff, she says, but there’s also debt, drugs, and if a relative dies, people “donate [stuff], or they bring it Dolly.”
Hinkle often visits estate sales and flea markets, but she also has several connections for buying wholesale, vintage clothing. There has been a lot of trial and error over the years, she says. For instance, after renting too big a space for her entrepreneurial endeavor, Hinkle leased some of the space to other vendors, pulling in various designers and artists to hawk their wares in order to pay for overhead costs.
“It’s just kind of a collaborative effort of resources that I’ve kind of put together over the years,” she says of keeping the shops belching an interesting array of merchandise. “I do go out and I look for things, but I really try to emphasize that people can sell things to us if they’re downsizing.”
Hinkle says that maintaining a fair-play philosophy has been essential to her business practices. "I don’t want to burn any bridges,” she says. “It’s kind of a small world in my business.”
Sporting a 1950s-era youth jersey and $10 pair of modern, plaid pants, Hinkle talks about her own buying habits. She’s collected everything from vintage wine shirts, embroidered western shirts from the '30s through '50s and denim. Currently, she’s passionate about antique jewelry. Hinkle’s always gravitated toward antiques and is married to the owner of Benny Jack Antiques. He’s more of a purist, she says, but they love museums, history and art. And they have a 2-year-old son together named Furious.
“This [shop] was a good decision for us,” she says of the new locale. “We do live in Oak Cliff and our son’s school is down the street.”
Hinkle says the area is family and community based, but there are also lots of tourists roaming the streets.
“We just meet people from all over the world,” she says. “And they’re not looking for what you find in the mall. They’re looking for record shops, or they’re looking for art galleries. They’re looking for more independently owned businesses. I’m grateful to be able to provide a space where people can come and kind of enjoy themselves and find something you don’t see every day.”
Forever the fashionista, but not one drawn to “boring consumerism fashion,” Hinkle says she tries to keep current on trends but prefers individual style.
”It’s kind of fun to let yourself be yourself,” she says.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.