Photograph by Aaron M. Conway
“Well, we met in a thrift store,” says Cale Darrell, co-owner of Reunion Clothiers, talking about how he and Frank Welling, Reunion’s other owner, first connected.
“We went on a lunch date after that, and that’s kinda where it started.” After that first meeting—at St. Vincent de Paul in Northside—Darrell and Welling (at left) became friends and started seeing a market in Cincinnati for vintage clothing. With almost 20 years of picking through racks of old clothes at flea markets and thrift stores between them, Darrell and Welling, both 31, decided to open up shop. “I had been making money and seeing a lot of demand online,” says Darrell. “I would usually just buy cool stuff that fit me,” jokes Welling. With their well-trained eyes, they started to expand their collections, and opened a 1,000-square-foot space on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine in April 2017. Vintage rugs cover the floors, a worn-in leather couch sits in the corner, and army issue jackets, vintage jeans, and baseball jerseys from the 1930s line the walls. “We don’t just sell stuff because it’s old,” says Welling. “You’ll never see disco shirts in here.”
Reunion has a heavy focus on military issue clothing (not surplus) dating back to World War II up through the Vietnam War. “Military gear was made to last,” says Darrell. “You’ll see a military jacket with jeans at J. Crew, but our stuff has been around the block and is the real deal.” Like a 1935 ROTC sweatsuit, priced at $750. Not every piece is a high-ticket item: there’s also a $5 bargain bin. Reunion strives to please the casual shopper as well as hardcore collectors. “We want to have the basics for people,” says Darrell. “Clothes that all the big box retailers are trying to mimic. We want it to be approachable.”
Filling a storefront full of curated vintage clothing isn’t easy, but that’s what makes it fun for the owners. Darrell and Welling visit local and regional thrift stores and markets every day of the week. “You have to get there early, that’s where the real work comes in,” says Darrell. “When you get up at 5:30 in the morning to visit a shop north of Dayton with enough time to get back down here and open up the shop. It’s worth it—to see someone find that perfect piece in our store.”
Want to check out their collection from your computer? Reunion sells some of their specialty pieces on Instagram and Etsy. They’ve shipped all over the country and as far away as Japan.
Reunion Clothiers, 1212 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, etsy.com/shop/reunionclothiers