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LOS ANGELES —Traffic on the corner of Melrose and Fuller regularly comes to a halt here on any given Saturday, as shoppers from near and far dart across in designer sneakers. They’re trying to get from one Round Two store to the next.
A few years ago, this corner was empty. Now it’s "the Round Two village,” as owner Sean Wotherspoon calls it, with its three stores clustered for a unique retail experience. In the Round Two vintage store, shoppers comb through vintage Polo jackets, Janet Jackson tour T-shirts, and other rare finds, some with $200 pricetags. Next door, customers in the main store are hanging out more than shopping. Some are just taking it all in — they’ve only seen the place on Round Two’s YouTube show. The third store, dedicated to Round Two’s own branded merchandise, is hosting a pop-up event for a young New York designer. The DJ is in the back setting up for the evening’s party. There’s a chance A$AP Nast will come by.
It’s brick-and-mortar gold in the era of the “retail apocalypse.” Along with Round Two’s other stores, they clock estimated annual sales of about $20 million.
Wotherspoon, 29, started collecting vintage clothes in a 10-by-10 storage unit in Richmond, Virginia, in 2013. Locals would come by for rare clothes that were sourced from thrift stores or flea markets for a few dollars. There was such a demand that Wotherspoon teamed up with a couple friends and opened an official brick-and-mortar across town. They began to film their day-to-day operation and interactions with customers inside the store and published the hourlong episodes on YouTube. “The Show” became an in-house advertising and content factory. The videos drew a loyal following, even some who’d never stepped foot in the store.
Six years later, the Round Two vintage empire has expanded to hip sections of several destination cities — New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Richmond. Each store is an antidote to the cold pretention of retailers like Supreme and Kith, while also managing to avoid vintage-store mustiness. In each location, the stock reflects regional tastes: Vintage Disneyland shirts fly off the racks in the Miami location. Film and music merchandise sells great in Los Angeles. New Yorkers love old Polo and Supreme. The highly curated, massive supply of priceless ‘90s gear, sports memorabilia, and fashion odds and ends is what keeps the hype going, along with an army of Round Two fans endlessly posting on Instagram about their finds and experiences.
“The Show” has became a star-studded event, and there’s talks of it moving to a larger platform.
“We just wanted to document what we were doing, and ended up turning it into a show. We put it on YouTube, and that's what got us recognition, like, outside of Virginia. That made us able to expand out here, and then international,” Wotherspoon explained to VICE NEWS.
We tagged along with Wotherspoon on a recent shopping trip to a huge rag house where he stocked up with about $2,000 worth of Madonna tour shirts, 1980s denim, and other vintage finds — to be resold at his stores for about 30 percent more.
This segment originally aired March 21, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.