By Ryan Schoeck
Edited by Melissa Haskin
Oak Street Vintage owners Cora Frazer and Carl Ernst have a reason to be smiling while opening their doors this particular Saturday morning.
Along with a cup of coffee in Frazer’s hands are two waxed-leather briefcases; one with intricately tooled designs and the other with nickel zippers and buckles. Both seem to be in terrific shape considering they are over 40 years old. “I just picked these up yesterday; a good little find,” she says with a shy laugh.
Oak Street Vintage specializes in selling clothing and furniture made from the 1950s through the 1970s. However, there is a range of other era-specific items adorning the shop as well. A shiny green Schwinn Paramount bicycle leans on the front stoop, cleaned up and ready to be ridden. Goods ranging from jewelry and board games, to lamps, LPs, and framed art colorfully fill the shop’s secret rooms and shelves. Compared to other vintage businesses in this region, the items are decently priced, but more importantly, carefully selected.
The couple’s store, located at 14th and Oak in Eugene, stands out from the common college town thrift and secondhand shops for several reasons. The primary focus of this store is selling quality vintage at a reasonable price. For Ernst and Frazer, this means items are cleaned up and usually in pristine condition. “We are always shopping,” says Ernst. “Every day we make an effort to go out and look around. It can be super challenging and frustrating at times, but we only want to bring in what we would want in our houses. Doing that step, we’re able to weed out a lot of just ok items.”
As with most folks investing in the vintage clothing and furniture markets, the two have to be slightly guarded when talking about the locations they pick from. It’s a code in way, or form of etiquette that people in this community hold to: don’t ask too much about the specifics of where people do their hunting. Be it rare clothing, vintage cruiser bicycles, or even European fiberglass furniture, the people like Ernst and Frazer making their living from this have to be protective of their sources.
Networking with like-minded friends across the country has also opened a larger selection for the team to pull from. “Knowing the market and style of items we want helps to keep leads coming from all over. It’s also not uncommon for us to be driving across the state when we get word of some potential finds,” adds Ernst.
“This is usually a good time of year,” says Frazer. “We have many students shopping from us who just moved here for school. They are discovering what we are all about for their first time. But we also have a nice group of regulars who stop in weekly. Those people talk with their friends, who might happen to be furnishing an old 60’s house. So word also spreads that way.” Although the shop does a fair amount of business with Eugene locals here on Oak Street, Frazer and Ernst are not limiting themselves. If customers live elsewhere, they now have the option of shopping directly from the duo’s recently added online store as well.