Print Vintage might be one of College and Ossington's best-kept secrets. Though Shelley Pulak's tiny vintage store has been located in the same spot for nearly 13 years, she says the shop is still being discovered by longtime neighbours.
"I have people who've lived in the neighbourhood for 10 years, and say, 'Did you just open?'" she laughs.
"I'm like, 'What do you mean, like, today? Like, this time today?'"
The storefront is mostly camouflaged by the Money Mart next door; if not for a $10 rack of vintage threads stationed out front, it would be easy to stroll right on by. As it turns out, the small space's manageability is what appealed to Pulak. She happened on the former CD store by chance, not long after the dissolution of her vintage furniture business, and was willing to take a small risk on something new. "I thought, 'I'm seeing that for a reason', you know?" she says.
Since taking over the boarded-up space, Pulak's been building up a clientele of regulars eagle-eyed enough to find their way into the roughly seven-foot-wide store, including neighbourhood lasses who head to Print for unique finds instead of journeying to Queen West or Kensington.
Case in point: A woman who works at Rapp Optical down the road stops in for a browse,
sporting a furry black jacket that Pulak immediately recognizes.
"What a greeeeat jacket!" Pulak deadpans. "Where'd ya get it?"
There are plenty of statement-making pieces at Print -- and plenty of well-constructed, don't-build-em-like-they-used to basics. Essentially, she'll stock "anything that's quality, interesting -- not too weird. Just weird enough."
Pulak's an able tour guide through the store's vintage selections, always ready to show off a hidden detail that makes each piece special. She's jammed a selection of fascinating finds from the '30s to the '70s into the tiny space, with a few '80s pieces (ones that "don't scream '80s") thrown in for good measure. Dresses generally range between $40 and $80, and antique pieces go up higher.
"My favourite is the '70s -- I love the disco-y stuff," Pulak says. "Bianca Jagger-y" polyester dresses are a fave with shoppers, she adds -- you can dress them up or down, and they're flattering while still being inexpensive. She produces one such "magic dress", a burgundy number priced at $48, on sale for $24.
She also pounces on '50s A-line dresses whenever they come her way. "They're getting so rare. You can't really find them anymore," Pulak says. "The problem with these, the waists are so small, you'd have to be, almost, a teenager to wear them."
There are also '60s shifts, mod coats, sequin-encrusted jackets, and pumps in the usual minuscule vintage sizes. Pulak buys weekly, and new pieces are added every Tuesday or Wednesday.
In addition to the occasional sale, there's also that $10 rack outside filled with slightly 'off' pieces. "Maybe it's out of season a bit, or there's a tear we haven't gotten to fixing -- nothing terrible. A girl just bought a leather skirt (off that rack), and it just fit her beautifully."
This tiny shop's reach extends worldwide: In addition to supplying a shop in Singapore with vintage stock, Pulak also sells some rare, higher-end pieces on Print's Etsy site to buyers worldwide. She steers me toward a silk-jersey vintage Pucci dress covered in the designer's trademark swirls. "I could have that here, and people wouldn't understand a $450 price tag."
In the end, it's all about matching a vintage piece with the perfect buyer. "Sometimes it's stuff for a bit of a bolder person, but you wear it you're fine, you know?" Pulak says, hoisting a heavy beaded jacket. "It's like, where would I wear this? But once you actually put it on, you're glad you did, 'cause you don't look the same as everyone else."
Photo by James C Lee