Hi Emily! How did you come to own Show Pony Vintage in Denver?
Hi! My name is Emily Hawver and I am the owner of Show Pony Vintage. I grew up in Rhode Island and moved to Colorado in 2010 to attend college. I graduated with a BA in Entrepreneurship and always knew that I would be an entrepreneur, but for a long time, didn’t have a clear path as to exactly what industry. I spent my twenties working for various small businesses, taking on many different roles and learning the ins and outs of what goes into running a company. I eventually landed a job at The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, which fueled my growing passion and knowledge of furniture and design.
Before Covid, I went back to school for Interior Design, but soon realized it wasn’t the career for me. At a crossroads, I decided to try and capitalize on my passions and began selling vintage furniture and homewares out of a booth at an antique mall in Littleton. Shortly after, I met the woman who would become my business partner. She sold vintage clothing and was well connected to the robust vintage clothing reseller community in Denver. With her knowledge and connections in the industry, and my background and experiences in entrepreneurship, we decided to take the leap and open Show Pony Vintage.
We found a spot right beside the University of Denver campus and immediately knew it would be the perfect space. We opened our doors on January 5th and by May, I became the sole owner of the business. We are now coming up on a year of being open and I still wake up everyday in disbelief that I get to do this for a living.
How is Show Pony Vintage a Unique Thrift Shop?
Show Pony is a collective of vendors. I have sixteen racks that are rented out by vendors who sell a combination of vintage and secondhand clothing and accessories. We also have a few more vendors who specialize in vintage records, magazines, and jewelry. The biggest difference between us and other vintage stores is that when you shop here, your purchase helps support about twenty local micro businesses. I love having a collective because it brings an incredible variety to our inventory that not many stores have.
Everyone sources and curates their rack space solely off their own tastes and style, which creates a one of a kind shopping experience. I often hear customers compliment us on our selection, and I know our incredible variety is something I would never be able to offer if the whole store was sourced by me. We truly have something for everyone. The biggest difference between us and a thrift store is that collectively, we work to curate the best of the best secondhand. We find it, clean it, fix it, steam it, and merchandise it. When you shop at a thrift store, you have to sort through a lot of trash to find the treasure or so to speak, but here you’re only going to get the treasure.
There is a ton of time, knowledge, and hard work that goes into giving these pieces a second life so the prices will often be higher than at the thrift store, but your trade off is in the curation, cleanliness and organization of the shopping experience. Accessibility and affordability are very important to us though and you’ll still find great deals with items ranging from $5-$150. Not everyone considers “vintage clothing” to be their style, which is why I allow vendors to carry vintage (20 years or older) and a small selection of contemporary pieces. My belief is that I’d rather get it out of landfills and into the hands of people than to only sell items that are true vintage.
We love the Retro look and feel of Show Pony- what drew you to the 70s Vibe?
My ex-business partner and I both immediately had the same vision for what we wanted the store to look like, but found a majority of the color inspiration in a vintage board game we found while thrifting called Flat Cat. I think for most people, you don’t ever get an opportunity to go big when designing a space and we wanted it to be memorable. The idea of the hot pink ceiling came first, then we decided every wall might as well be a different color. For the furniture, we both were big fans of retro and mid century design and were able to find pieces that really complimented the space and our vision. I’m very proud of how everything turned out, and continue to get positive feedback from customers about the look and feel of the store. The bathroom is my favorite part of the space, so make sure to pop your head in there when you come in.
Can you describe, in your opinion, what the Fast Fashion Industry is doing to small businesses and the environment? And the importance of Vintage Stores today?
In my opinion, the Fast Fashion industry is a menace to both society and the environment. Shein was just announced the most popular brand in the world, which is a huge disappointment. Fast fashion is so damaging to the environment, between how the garments are made, their inability to withstand more than a few wears, the chemicals and pollution the factories create, plus the emissions from transportation and shipping. We as a society are in big trouble if we continue to allow these companies to exist and produce the way they currently do. Alongside their damage to the environment, they often have very poor, if not illegal business practices. Their employees are often so overworked and mistreated that it can almost be considered slave labor.
The cheap nature of both the craftsmanship and price of these garments often devalues the market and floods the secondhand market with an overabundance of low quality and unsellable pieces. A lot of times companies will even end up burning inventory that they overproduced or can’t sell off, which creates hazardous fumes and affects the health of the surrounding communities. Once you begin to immerse yourself in the world of secondhand, it truly is astonishing how much clothing there already is.
So much so that we could clothe everyone on earth for their whole lifetime without creating one new garment. Vintage stores are so important because they not only help preserve the history of the item, but they are able to give garments destined for the landfill a new life. Vintage clothing is unique, sturdy, and has been proven fashionable throughout the decades. Even though brands like Shein still reign in popularity, the secondhand and vintage clothing market continues to grow, especially as younger generations dispel the stigmas that thrifting your clothing is shameful, a belief often held by my generation and older.. Buying secondhand is a great way to own beautiful and unique clothing, help the environment, be budget friendly and fight the capitalist notion that everything you buy must be new.
Are you from Colorado? Which neighborhood did you eventually choose to call home?
I am originally from Rhode Island and lived in both Gunnison and Crested Butte for the first 3-4 years of my time here. When I moved to the city, my partner and I rented a unit in a newly built apartment complex on Brighton Blvd in the RiNo district.
Back then, RiNo was barely a neighborhood and over the years we’ve watched it change and grow immensely into the bustling community it is today. We have lived in a few different apartments over the years, but always in the RiNo district. There’s a certain comradery to having been witness to the growth in the neighborhood which has made it difficult for us to want to leave. However, with how much time I spend at the store, I now have an affinity towards the DU community and have loved getting to have a second “home” in the university neighborhood.
What is your interior design vibe at home? How would you describe your own styles?
My interior design vibe at home is what I’d consider to be eclectic.
I love vintage furniture, especially mid century modern and danish design, and have no problem mixing different eras and styles. I love the color orange so you’ll find a lot of bright orange accents throughout. I’ve been lucky to be able to amass a collection of art, both a mix of secondhand or vintage pieces and pieces from local artists all of which you’ll find displayed throughout my apartment. I’m what you’d consider a maximalist, so I have a lot of chotchkies tucked away on shelves. It’s a much different style in comparison to the store, but I’m grateful that I get to enjoy the two interiors equally.
How would you describe the Personality or Vibe of Denver?
I would describe the vibe of Denver as chill and laid back. I will forever be an East Coaster through and through, so it’s taken me a long time to adjust to the cultural/regional differences, but over the years Denver has become much more of a melting pot of people from all over the US. I think the personality continues to change as the city grows.
I do find that I admire Denver’s entrepreneurial spirit. I think a lot of people move here with the intention to start new, find themselves, and take risks and in turn, there is a good community of mostly young people trying to create something for themselves. It is a very progressive place to live and along with the sunshine, people are very happy to reside here. I am however looking forward to one day having more than three restaurants in the whole city open past midnight, but I suppose no place can have it all.