Erin Sutherland and Lodekka, the Vintage Dress Bus
Erin Sutherland’s 1960’s era British bus is no longer filled with busy commuters; instead the restored beauty is fully stocked with carefully-selected, vintage clothing, accessories and ephemera. Lodekka is the creative brain child of one inspired woman who turned a lost job into a found passion. Join me as we chat with Erin, the conductress of this inventive, green operation. More photos below:
Located in NE Portland, along Williams Ave, a popular eating and shopping hub, Lodekka is parked on a corner lot. Erin worked for many years in the non-profit sector and college admissions world, bringing others’ dreams to reality. When she was laid off a little over a year ago, Erin was presented with an opportunity to do what she did best, search out classy threads in her beloved Portland suburb thrift-stores and sell them somehow. When she found the sad, neglected bus in Montana, the dress shop was born. For many months later, Erin and her partner toiled away to restore the bus into the sweet, intimate shopping haven that it now is.
Thank goodness Erin’s career took this magical turn, because she’s created an experience, not just a shop. And with her attuned eye for all things glamorous, humorous, functional and sassy, she’s offering up shoppers some of the most affordable vintage items in town. Erin’s upcyclying retail haven is a must-do for any out-of-town visitors and is on the radar of Portlanders young and hip, as well as mature and classy. There’s a diverse range of ensembles and goodies here, truly something for everyone, and chatting with Erin in the bench seating downstairs, you’ll certainly be charmed.
Erin Sutherland, Owner, Lodekka double decker dress shop
What does a typical day look like?
I arrive at the bus between 10am – 10:45am to re-stock inventory, open at 11am, help customers during the day, and clean the bus just before I leave at 6pm (or 5pm on Sundays). I spend evenings doing “back office” work like paying bills, pricing and organizing inventory, blogging and posting info on social networking sites. I also play in a local band, so sometimes my evenings involve closing the bus and racing off to a sound check.
The term “green living” can be so generic. What does it mean to you?
In this context, it meant taking an object (the bus) that might have otherwise ended up in a junkyard or scrap metal yard and giving it a new life. I had the option to rent a storefront or start a business in a found object, and the latter seemed like a lot more fun. I also sell used (or “previously enjoyed,” as I like to say) clothing and other items, and my customers seem to feel good about recycling rather than buying something that’s newly manufactured. In my personal life, I’ve been trying to do more precycling: only buying food and other products in packaging that can be recycled, buying things that can be used repeatedly rather than one time, etc.
What inspires you?
My customers inspire me every day. They are grateful for the experience of spending time on the bus and getting to take treasures away with them. I absolutely glow when I see a man or woman try something on that obviously makes them feel like a million bucks. Unlike many retail situations, the bus allows space for visitors to sit and chat with me – and their fellow customers. The space is small and intimate, so I get to know a lot about them in a short period of time. They’re all fascinating in their own way and I always look forward to hearing their stories.
The one thing you can’t live without:
My darling, supportive and hilarious future husband, Brian.
Favorite quote or personal mantra you live by?
I want people to find what they’re looking for, whether it’s personal fulfillment or a fabulous pair of shoes.
• Visit Erin’s Vintage Clothing Bus: Lodekka
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross. Originally published 2011-03-22)