Recommended Reads: Vintage shop owner’s memoir an unexpected treat

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y648Alligators, Old Mink & New Money, by Alison Houtte & Melissa Houtte

All avid readers delight in good books, but to unexpectedly discover a gem when you’re not expecting to is a special treat. I was doing fashion research — yes there is such a thing — and this book I had selected for research turned out to be a delightful read.

This memoir begins with the author’s life growing up in Miami. Alison is co-author of her memoir with her sister, who is a journalist. Highlighted from the start is the embarrassment her mother was to Alison and her siblings, because of how her mother dressed. She dressed in vintage, shopping at Goodwill and church rummage sales. The family experiences are precious and full of good-natured humor. As her adult life progresses, Alison ends up embracing vintage and even owning a famous shop in Brooklyn. Don’t you just love irony? Alison’s life takes such interesting turns from Miami to Brooklyn.

As she grows up in Miami, she is able to do some modeling. That leads to a surprising opportunity to live and model in Paris. The descriptions of her life in Miami are vibrant, and her descriptions of the modeling life in Paris and later in Europe are exciting and fascinating. The humor intertwined in her reflections on her family life in Miami continues throughout this book of her life’s adventures.
After the runway and fashion magazines in Paris, becoming owner of a vintage shop, Hooti Couture aka Hooti’s, in Brooklyn is an intriguing turn of events.

Reading about her evolution as a small business owner is compelling. And how her knowledge of her product, vintage, grows! She sums up her business philosophy so well, “I’m a little secondhand shop in Brooklyn, but I cater to each client like she’s in Bergdorf’s. I think the success has come with the service and price points. It’s great, fun stuff in a fun environment and we get new merchandise weekly. I buy with love, what I love.” And don’t let this quote mislead you; she did carry men’s vintage as well and had some very loyal male customers.

Getting back to fashion research, there is plenty of good advice, solid designer knowledge and interesting history for fashion lovers, flea marketers, and thrift store addicts. If you haven’t explored vintage before, this book will open a whole new world to you. If you are already a vintage fan, you’ll learn even more.

Alison has an eye for style and a keen sense of value, and many tips to pass along. Her business philosophy is simple, “keep it fresh, cheap and chic!”

Thereby hangs a tale . . . .

— By Wendy Kendall

Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.

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