Midpeninsula Post

Hands-on involvement makes Blue Bin Vintage a standout shop in Downtown Palo Alto

(Dana Huch)

Blue Bin Vintage’s recycled material totes are adorned with a straightforward assertion: “I bought secondhand at Blue Bin Vintage and helped keep clothes out of landfills,” so that customers can sport their support for Palo Alto’s fresh vintage shop and its mission.

“We want this community to understand the harmful effects of fast fashion and anything made in large quantities,” said Ahmad Amin, one of Blue Bin’s three founders. “It’s hurting the planet.”

The shop offers vintage pieces curated by a variety of vendors for more accessible prices than other local consignment and vintage shops.

Amin said one shopper said Blue Bin Vintage “makes Palo Alto cool,” contrasting the designer boutique and restaurant surroundings with its standout ambiance and collection that attracts a younger clientele.

Overwhelmingly, staff and patrons alike also expressed enthusiasm for the affordable yet intentional secondhand selection the shop brings to the Mid-peninsula.

A Blue Bin Vintage reusable tote is pictured (top). (Dana Huch)

Every detail of Blue Bin Vintage has been considered intimately by someone you can likely find in the store from time to time. Neo-mint and warm brown evoking the 1970s runs across the shop’s interior walls in clean waves. So clean, in fact, one might not even realize the curves were freehanded by the few original staff members.

“We try to do everything ourselves and [we] budget because it takes a lot to run a store,” Amin said.

The idea sprouted about a year ago when Amin and the other two founders (friends he connected with through the thrift scene) united to organize garage flea markets. In September, small local events culminated in their business, and the crew — all entirely inexperienced in entrepreneurship — found themselves in the thick of small business life.

Amin stands behind the register table shop owners converted from a workbench. (Dana Huch)
Lopez is pictured among the racks. (Dana Huch)

“It’s a big step for us,” Amin said.

The three founders were not alone, though. Essential contributor Melissa Lopez is to be credited with the shop’s pronounced aesthetic (color scheme, decoration and groovy original font) blending modern and retro.

“Three stinky boys running a store on their own is not at all appealing to me so I absolutely inserted myself into the project,” Lopez jested.

Further evidence of Blue Bin’s hands-on philosophy appears in the register table converted from a workbench and the patrons who learned about the shop from flyers the founders handed out in school parking lots.

Vendors add their personal touches through their eclectic curative eyes. Blue Bin’s selection pulls from a pool of individual, talented rack-miners by delegating shop stocking to vendors, each responsible for propagating their section of the shop with treasures.

The shop owners have gotten in touch with vendors through the vintage community at flea markets, on Instagram and by these vendors reaching out to contribute their finds. The selection of pieces is left entirely up to the independent vendors apart from managers’ requests for certain styles that need stocking.

Organizing the racks by vendor gives patrons the unique experience of exploring a patchwork of stylistic visions within one shop and also gives vendors an easy way to point Instagram followers in the direction of their discoveries.

Cheryl Kao, a passerby who stopped into the shop was wowed by the curation.

“I’m impressed,” she said. “I just put like five things in the fitting room.”

The secret? Fashion investigation.

“It’s kind of like being a detective,” vendor Lavanya Mahadevan said. “You get leads from different people and there’s a lot of networking.”

A “lead” could be a hint to an estate sale or a desire to get rid of old clothes in conversation with a stranger about something they’re wearing, she said.

Mahadevan specializes in discovering historical pieces such as Vietnam war attire, but has begun selling trending 1980s and 1990s styles.

During her time growing up in Palo Alto and then attending Stanford University, Mahadevan said her local community lacked secondhand shops. Blue Bin Vintage is bringing a long-awaited hotspot for sustainable fashion.

“When I saw that the store was opening up and that they were looking for vendors, I thought it would be a good opportunity to bring the types of pieces that I would have been interested in buying when I was in high school and college to my own community,” she said.

Among its students, curators, vintage visionaries and amateur wave painters, the community of Blue Bin Vintage appreciators share a common effort to look fantastic while conserving the bounty of the earth and their wallets.

Stop by Blue Bin Vintage at 520 Bryant St, Palo Alto on Friday through Sunday 12 p.m.–8 p.m. or Monday through Thursday 12 p.m.–7 p.m. Follow the shop on Instagram @bluebinvintage. Visit the shop’s website: www.bluebinvintage.com.

One thought on “Hands-on involvement makes Blue Bin Vintage a standout shop in Downtown Palo Alto

  1. Palo Alto and the surrounding area has had a number of vintage clothing stores and thrift stores through the years. In fact, a gorgeous vintage store called Ages Ahead was right next to where Blue Bin is now. There was another one in the same block not that long ago and Empire Vintage in Waverley. There’re still nearby thrift stores. I’ve found some great vintage buys at thrift stores in Menlo, Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Carlos.

    I wish the best to Blue Bin – hopefully they get some men’s styles a la Tony Soprano.

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