Delanee Koppersmith is the proprietor of the vintage store Cobblestones, on 314 East 9th St. She opened her store in 1981. Delanee is a beautiful woman, her red lipstick perfectly applied and her wavy dark hair framing her angular face. Born in a different era, her voice sounds like she was raised in the 20s, and grew up dancing among the classy ladies of the 30s and 40s. She said to me, “I always liked old things. I like the old things and I like the old world.”
Stepping into Cobblestones–a hidden gem on the side streets of the East Village–you are brought back to a time which accentuated beautiful, well-made dresses, cocktail hats, coin purses, leather gloves, silk negligees, and evening shoes.
Curating 1930s, 40s, and 50s clothing, Cobblestones exemplifies a time in fashion when clothes were classy, simple, elegant, and feminine. When elderly women sell their clothes to the shop on consignment they love to know where they go. Delanee points out, “they like to see their things being enjoyed by other people. People back then had a lot less and they cherished and took care of their garments.”
How do you choose your pieces?
Delanee: Well I would say for the most part I like the classics. I like classy things. I like feminine clothes. For the most part if I like it, I’ll take it. Even sometimes I have things that are a little bit newer.
Where do you find your pieces?
Delanee: Well through the years I have had the privilege of knowing quite a few senior citizens. So they’ll come to me or call– maybe I bought something from their neighbor. You’d be surprised, the elderly ladies, they love for their things to go on to another life because sometimes their own children don’t have any appreciation for these things, and the clothes get bagged up and off they go. But they like to see their things enjoyed by other people. When they come to pick up their money, they are always very interested in who bought it. These elderly people had a lot less back then, so they treated everything well and they cherished everything. They took care of their things.
How do you think the environment around your store has changed over the years?
Delanee: Well you know I grew up in this neighborhood. I have been here a long time. But I think around here, certainly, the neighborhood has cleaned up. A lot of the people have come in and painted the outsides, put in new lighting and what not. But I personally miss the old world, you know, I miss the old neighborhood. I think it was much more community based and a lot of people knew each other. It was a little bit more creative. It’s really the whole spin of the world now, everything is rush rush, and there isn’t much time to be creative because everyone is struggling to get through the days and pay the rent basically.
Sometimes I stand on a corner wherever I am and close my eyes and I think, ‘what was this corner like in the 1930s and 1940s?’ And of course back then there weren’t as many people, there weren’t as many cars. It just was a very smaller, little bit easier world, I think.
How would you describe your style?
Delanee: Well, funny enough I don’t really wear that much vintage clothing. You know to get dressed in true vintage takes a lot of effort. But I always have something vintage on. I like dressy clothes even though I have no where to go. I think dressy clothes were so beautiful then, so well made. Sometimes I watch old movies and I think, “wow did people really live like that.” Every room has flowers in it and the women just so gorgeously dressed. And I think to myself, “did women really dress like that?” But all these things in the shop say ‘yes they really did live like that’. And of course, back then people had more time in life. People didn’t go so far away from home and people were more family orientated. It was just a different world.
What are the challenges of having a vintage store?
Delanee: Every vintage store has it’s own flavor. Their own era they like to have. For instance because I like the oldest things, I don’t think a lot of stores deal with that. A lot of the stores deal with the 70s, and the younger people deal with 80s things, which to me is not vintage clothing. What is more challenging is the economy.
What was it like starting your vintage store?
Delanee: Well actually when I first started, the reason I started was because I grew up in the neighborhood and I moved to Arizona with a boy, and that didn’t work out all that well so I came back. When I graduated high school I didn’t have any desire to go to college. So when I came back to the neighborhood, I said ‘wow this is starting to change in 1980′—that was when the gentrification was just starting. Back then the rent was very inexpensive, you just had to paint the walls and put up some shelves.
Were you influenced by something when you were younger to fall in love with vintage?
Delanee: Well I have no idea what possessed me to do this. I was only 21 at the time. Here I am, 34 years later.
Cobblestones – www.cobblestonesvintage.com
314 E 9th Street between 1st & 2nd Avenues
New York, NY 10003
If you are hungry after shopping, and want some awesome pork buns or delicious ramen, around the corer you can stop in at Momofoku Noodle Bar at 171 1st Avenue.