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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Feathers Vintage: Four Decades in the Oregon District

Susan Byrnes

Janet Phillips is the owner of Feathers Antiques and Vintage Clothing in Dayton’s Oregon District. Her shop has been in the same location for four decades and in that time she’s seen plenty, from the insides of people’s closets to the evolution of the neighborhood.

There are two things I know I will always find at Feathers: a burning stick of Nag Champa incense and a great song playing over the speakers. The majority of items here are vintage clothing hung in tightly packed racks, and even from the ceiling. You find things like suede welding chaps with a matching jacket, a dozen pairs of sparkling silver stiletto shoes, or a kimono with a dragon on it. You’ll find Janet behind the glass counter filled with jewelry and ‘80’s buttons. Or you might find her son Aaron who helps run the store and curates the shop’s impressive collection of vinyl records. I’ve been a customer for a while now, and always stop in when I’m in the neighborhood. Janet’s been here for over 40 years.

“­It’s really been a lot of fun, I’ve met incredible people from buying to selling to, and you never know what you’re going to find. I love it because it’s the quality, back in the day they really knew how to make things, the fabrics, the styles.”

Janet Phillips, owner of Feathers Antiques and Vintage Clothing
Susan Byrnes
Janet Phillips, owner of Feathers Antiques and Vintage Clothing

Janet bought her first vintage suit at the age of 14 at a church thrift store for 25 cents. From there she was hooked on collecting clothes and on the thrill of the hunt.

“I bought a Chanel dress, probably 30 years ago at the Corner Cupboard Thrift Store, and I paid $1.29 for it. It was from the 1930’s and was a dropped waist, it was white with blue pleating on it, it was fabulous.

She regrets selling that dress. But there’s always more.

"People will call me and I come out to their house and the best stuff is truly when I go right into the closet and pull it out. It’s sort of a privilege to do it, usually it’s somebody’s lifetime collection, most often they are deceased, and so it’s seeing, you know, to me their whole life in this closet."

I once bought a suitcase there, the old fashioned kind without wheels, and inside I found a luggage tag from a cruise to the Panama Canal dated 1966. You never know what you’ll find. You also never know who you’ll find shopping beside you.

"I had Ronald Reagan’s son here 40 years ago when he was here with the ballet and he bought a pair of alligator shoes from me. I had Hall and Oates in here. I had Sheryl Crow in here and I got comp tickets to see her. She bought a ton of vinyl when she was in here. But she was very nice and that was kind of fun."

But Janet’s had some pretty rough times too. Her shop is located right across the street from Ned Pepper’s the site of the mass shooting in 2019. She has a hard time talking about it.

"I still can’t believe it happened. I was not here I was home in bed and I heard it, and I just rolled over in bed thinking it was firecrackers and when I got up and found out what it was it was just… And the aftermath, with all the reporters, that was, it was horrible really."

Not long after that COVID hit.

"Well right at the beginning of the pandemic when they were closing everything I panicked and had a self-promoting “go-fund-me”. Many, many, many people donated to help me to pay my rent, which was extremely humbling. I heard from people I never knew, I heard from customers from 30 years ago, it was just amazing the outpour of help that I got. Which made…I was able to stay here because of it, and I’m very grateful."

Janet rolls a rack of clothing out onto the sidewalk as she opens the shop for the day. The phone starts ringing, and it’s back to business.

Support for Culture Couch comes from WYSO Leaders Frank Scenna and Heather Bailey, who are proud to support storytelling that sparks curiosity, highlights creativity and builds community.

Culture Couch is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.