New vintage store provides sustainable, affordable fashion to Pittsburgh residents

Mike Lang, a South Hills resident and founder of Fifty One Ten Vintage on Penn Avenue, said the vintage store provides sustainable, high-quality vintage clothing at prices that are hard to find elsewhere. He opened Fifty One Ten Vintage, his first store, in East Liberty in 2020, followed by Twisted Vintage in 2022 and their most recent location, Vintage on 51, just last week.

“You learn to be more fierce and motivated as you get into business. Especially when it’s yours, there’s no one above you. You have to make those decisions. It’s nonstop,” Lang said.

In addition to their reasonable prices, each vintage store has plenty of sales, promotions and events, Lang said. This weekend, the Fifty One Ten location is having a $25 fill-a-bag sale. The stores sell college crewnecks, vintage Levi’s, neon Y2K tops and more. 

Opening a vintage store was always a dream, Lang said. He worked at a thrift store on Penn Avenue 12 years ago and always had his eye on a venue across the street, especially after noticing the resurgence of older clothing in 2010.

After creating pop-up shops, he finally had the opportunity to open Fifty One Ten Vintage with his wife, Nina, at the same venue he’d always hoped for. Vintage on 51 was born following the success of the first two locations after Lang realized the need for a vintage store outside of the city.

“It’s wild. The success is awesome, I’m super happy. That was why we chose to expand, it was like, there needs to be more of these stores, you don’t have to go half an hour into the city,” Lang said.

Canyon Cabrera, a Mount Washington resident, is co-owner of the newest store, which is located in Jefferson Hills. He said he curated the inventory from thrift stores, house sales and even dumpsters.

“Mainly, it comes from anywhere where you can find a good deal, whether that be thrift stores or flea markets or even just digging stuff out of the dumpster that was going to go to the landfill,” Cabrera said. “You really have to be creative in the ways you source. It can be as simple as talking to people, going on house buys, that sort of thing.”

Jameson Buckley, co-owner of Twisted Vintage and resident of Homestead, became interested in sustainable clothing as a kid wearing recycled items from family members.

“I always wore hand-me-downs from brothers and that’s what got me into it. I’ve always worn other people’s used stuff and liked putting different styles together. Finding a deal, too,” Buckley said.

Buckley tries to give customers at Twisted Vintage the same love of vintage clothing as the manager of Twisted Vintage. 

“I like when people leave with a bag full of stuff, and it’s a few super dope fits. I like seeing people wearing it out, too. When they come back in the store, you’ll see them wearing the fit they bought before. Seeing that is always really cool,” Buckley said.

Cabrera had previous experience sourcing clothing while running his own ecommerce business. With his office right above the venue that would become Vintage on 51, it was the perfect fit, Lang said. The stores try to emphasize the importance of sustainable fashion, according to Cabrera.

“A lot of new clothing is exploited on cheap labor and made in sweatshops. A big corporation is making four big lines of clothing per year, which can consist of hundreds of pieces,” Cabrera said.

Lang agreed that reused clothing is valuable, and better for the environment than making new clothes. 

Image Courtesy of Vintage On 51

“Going out and buying clothing and talking to people for so long, so many people that I meet go, ‘Oh, I threw that out.’ I can’t tell you how many times,” Lang said. “So many of the materials and fabrics aren’t biodegradable, there’s polyester, there’s plastic and it’s just more in landfills. We don’t need any more clothing.”

Clothing that was trendy decades ago is back on the rise now, Cabrera said. 

The vintage stores focus on clothing from the 70s through the early 2000s, styles that are trending and allow customers to cater to their personal fashion sense, according to Buckley.

“Everyone’s wearing a lot of different gears. Like, 70s, even older through the 90s, early 2000s. There’s so many different styles,” Buckley said.

Starting a small business is a learning process for each of the founders, whether that’s socially, personally or professionally, according to Buckley. 

For Lang, this means never having a day off. But he said the store’s impact on the community makes the investment worth it.

“Owning your own business never stops. It’s 24 hours, seven days a week. It’s a constant learning process. I think it’s really neat to create jobs though, and be a manager and an owner, and give people a chance to make money,” Lang said.

Although Vintage on 51 is still in its infancy, Cabrera has grown from his experience thus far, and is already looking ahead, he says.

“For me, it really just taught me to manage things that we’re in control of and block out the bullshit we aren’t in control of. Focusing in on what we can do and what we can do better,” Cabrera said.

The effort that Lang, Buckley and Cabrera put into their stores is for one end goal 一 to make people happy.

“It’s to make people happy. College kids, and that’s our demographic, they have other expenses. You gotta be fly, and it’s gotta be affordable,” Lang said.

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