For over 15 years, Oakland Park has been the home of Vintage Diversity. Located at 236 Prospect Rd. in Oakland Park, FL 33309, Vintage Diversity offers a variety of styles to fit any era.
Melanie Garbo, founder and owner, of Vintage Diversity, takes us on a journey of how her unique business model operates, when and how it all started, and reveals her inspirations and passion for fashion and accessorizing.
Vintage Diversity: A Journey Into This Unique Business
Melanie is the youngest of six siblings and was raised in a traditional Italian household in the Midwest during the 60s and 70s. Being from a large family, her parents were frugal with their shopping. She describes that from a young age, most of her garments either came from ‘hand me downs or sale racks. “I was at the bottom of the fashion food chain in my family.”
Having no sense of individuality, and always feeling oppressed, Melanie’s frustration set in around her preteen years. In 1972 after having her fair share of ‘hand me downs’, Melanie was determined to pursue her style. “My mother told me if I wanted something new and different, I would have to buy it myself.”
Melanie accepted the challenge and sought out babysitting jobs to earn her income for her fashion wardrobe. She remembers the exhilaration she felt of being able to obtain her own fashion pieces, “I was in heaven and was quickly hooked on the feeling! From that point, I was a matching and accessorizing master!”
The Path to Becoming a Bona Fide Fashionista
“Every evening, I coordinated my outfit and accessories for the next day. I would lay them out on my bean bag chair and stared at the ensemble until it was time to go to sleep.” Melanie’s ever-growing enthusiasm for fashion is what ultimately led her to develop her unique business model. She eventually went from being the shy, introverted skinny child, that felt overshadowed by her seniors in her family, to the strong, confident and successful businesswoman she is today. She attributes her work ethic and passion for her business to both her parents. “My mother had incredible fashion sense, interior design, and organizational skills” and “My father was handy, innovative, mechanical, nostalgic and had an entrepreneurial spirit”, Melanie explained.
Vintage Diversity is a multifaceted business concept that Melanie responds “If I hadn’t been doing it for almost 19 years, I wouldn’t believe it could be done”. Her friends describe Melanie as a hardworking, intelligent, determined, strong, honest, caring, thoughtful and confident individual. It’s these characteristics, matched with her love for nostalgic fashion, and background in account management in the legal and corporate fields, that allowed Melanie to conceive Vintage Diversity and flourish it into the successful business it is today.
Travel through time with Vintage Diversity
What exactly is Vintage Diversity? Well as Melanie eagerly states, “If you have never been to our store, you are missing out! The sights and sounds of a simpler time are presented and reinforced throughout every display of nostalgia.”
Vintage Diversity opened in 2001 in an antique mall in Boca Raton as a 10′ x 10 ‘ booth. Even as a small location, Vintage Diversity offered quality items that could rival its competitors. Upscale vintage retailers from across the US, including New York, Chicago and Miami would source their items from the shop.
Growing Bigger and Exploring New Ideas
After six months of steady business, Vintage Diversity moved to a 500-square foot storefront on the Island City of Wilton Manors. The new location was made of fundamental items that included a homemade sign, a cash box, and shelving from a thrift shop.
Experiencing exponential growth within 3 months, Vintage Diversity relocated, to a 1,000-square foot location, within the same plaza. The merchandise was principally comprised of items revolving around the decades of the 1960s and ’70s. However, there was more growth in store for Vintage Diversity.
A unique business proposition was made. One day, a client explained that they only needed to use the vintage piece for a short period of time. Therefore they were more interested in renting the piece than purchasing it. This was unchartered territory for Vintage Diversity, but being the savvy businesswoman that Melanie is, she agreed to this proposal; unbeknownst to her this simple action would catapult Vintage Diversity into the thriving business it is today tapping into an unfilled gap in the market. After nearly three years from that initial request, Vintage Diversity expanded once again, to delineate between the rental items and the retail items.
Transporting Clients and Visitors Through Time
In pursuit of her dreams, Melanie invested in an older run-down building. She worked vigorously and fought through sweat, tears and growing pains accompanied by the assistance of her daughter, a friend, and many prayers to establish what we know today as Vintage Diversity. The 3000-square foot showroom is comprised of two-thirds of “Rentals Only” inventory and the remainder is of their retail items available to guys, gals or anyone in between. This larger space allows her to implement her effortless talent to section off the diversity of eras, trends, personalities, sizes, and accessories. “I am proud to say we have cornered the market on a niche no one ever knew existed including myself.”
Upon entering the store you’re transported through time. At the very entrance of the store, you’ll find decades from 1920 up to the 1980s and 95% of the inventory consists of original pieces. Melanie tells me that some of the pieces in the rental station are from her childhood.
The store has such a huge variety to please any sense of style, personality, and budget and of course, themed decade. Their clientele base is as diverse as the items found in the store ranging from 16- 75+ years old. “Their desire to purchase or rent our clothing depends on whether or not they have an event like a milestone birthday, fundraiser, gala, photoshoot, film, theater performance, television commercial or just for the heck of it.” Some customers have included professionals in the television and film industries, which Melanie hopes to expand upon.
Hopes for Future Decades
As for what’s next? Melanie says “I pretty much live in the here and now. At 60, it’s one day at a time. As long as I have the health, passion, patience, and perseverance, Vintage Diversity will remain. God willing, that will be a reality for many years to come.”
You can shop exclusive items available at Melanie’s Etsy.com online store, Revival of the Fittest. Here you’ll find close to 1,300 items that are not available in the Oakland Park store. You can also check out Vintage Diversity on social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
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About the Author
Maria Scudella-Beltran was born and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey, right outside of New York City. She moved to South Florida in 2004 and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors’ degree in Marketing and Communications.
In 2010, she purchased her first home in the North Andrews Gardens area in Oakland Park. After several years of working in the retail industry, Maria took on a part-time internship at a marketing agency and continued her education through Walden University where she earned her Master’s degree in Marketing and Communications.
Currently, she works in Marketing and during her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.