I first met Maggie about a year ago at a Hyde Park and Ri.volt Accessories fashion show through a mutual friend (hey Kaley!). I instantly liked her as she told me all about her plans for Plume, a vintage shop she was opening with her friend Sheila – her excitement and passion for her business was contagious. I eagerly followed along on social media as Maggie and Sheila created a brand long before their shop even opened.
Fast forward to present day, and Plume is officially open in Bayview, Wisconsin, and it's even cooler than I thought possible. The selection of vintage clothing and accessories is perfect, and don't even get me started on the shop's decor. Maggie and Sheila clearly have serious style and major expertise. When visiting the shop, I tried on a coat that didn't quite fit; as I put it back, Maggie said she had a coat in the basement she thought I would love. A few minutes later, she came up with a gorgeous cream coat with fur trim that fit perfectly. Needless to say, I bought it. And I love it.
Go visit Plume ASAP, and learn more about the masterminds behind it in my Q&A with them:
My Midwest Is Showing: Tell me about your business.
Plume: Plume is Milwaukee’s newest vintage and modern boutique offering a personalized shopping experience for individuals interested in fashion, sustainability, and the arts. We seek to source unique, quality merchandise from all over the nation while offering local products from reputable artists and small business owners. The shop is comprised of men’s and women’s new and vintage apparel, shoes and accessories, small furniture and house wares, beauty products, print materials, and handmade gifts. Our objective is to showcase the timelessness and beauty of vintage clothing in a modern space while emphasizing the importance of supporting local talent.
MMWIS: What's the history of Plume?
Plume: Plume is the culmination of five years of friendship and collaboration between us, Maggie Solveson and Sheila Teruty. We each had long standing individual businesses selling vintage clothing online and connected over social media based on similar interests. At the time, Sheila was organizing vintage fashion shows in Milwaukee and running her Riverwest vintage boutique and art collective, Cocoon Room, while Maggie was seeking opportunities to introduce her love of vintage fashion to a local audience. We did our first fashion show together, Femme Adorn, and the rest is history. We’ve since grown professionally, creatively, and most importantly, as business partners lending our individual strengths to this joint endeavor.
We got started on the planning just over a year ago. We decided to hunt for a location in the Bayview neighborhood because of its openness to new ideas and community oriented atmosphere. We happened across our space on KK and Rusk and experienced love at first sight. It had the physical space, the modern feel, and several supremely charming extra features we couldn’t deny. We would have two levels of retail space and two large operable garage doors to let in the sunshine and warm weather during our short, but beloved Milwaukee summers.
We both came into this thing very resolute about the foundation of the business. We remain devoted to treasure hunting for items that are not only high quality, but also well preserved and wearable for a broad audience. Unlike some vintage shops, Plume aims to be relevant and fashionable today while celebrating the history and craftsmanship of vintage clothing. We also founded this business to fit the wants and needs of our developing customer base in our city. This means having a wider range of sizes, a sliding scale of prices, and a collection just eclectic enough for any type of shopper. We want to dispel the notion that vintage is a costume and instead can be wearable and affordable for many.
Our business name speaks volumes to what we do and how we connect with our customers. Plume, as in a bird’s plumage, is a nod to all the different types of beauty and self expression we can behold around us. Our tagline, birds of all feathers, ties in the belief that fashion and outward expression should not only be celebrated, but accessible to everyone. We all wear a unique cloak of feathers, but each has equal beauty, merit, and strength.
MMWIS: What's a normal day like for you?
Plume: A normal day for us is spending most of our time, business hours and otherwise, primping and organizing the store while squeezing in shopping sessions for new inventory whenever possible. Historically we have worked for ourselves and shopped at our leisure. The new hours force us to shop with perhaps less frequency, but give us the extra time and attention to focus on re-imaging our current stock, perfecting our merchandising approach, and also fine tuning our buying habits. We want to pick the best of the best, create an inventory that is cohesive, beautiful, and well rounded and then switch it all up after a week or so to keep ourselves and our audience engaged.
As for the day to day, having a shop means a lot of cleaning, a lot of attention to detail, and a great focus on customer service. So far we’ve had folks in every day and it’s an absolute pleasure to find out how they discovered us, what we have to offer them, and then see our clothing brought to life again on a real live person. This is by far the best part. We can spot beautiful clothing time and time again, but it’s always a gratifying surprise to see how lovely each piece wears.
Days off have also ceased to exist. Our lives are currently centered on building this thing so we plan, organize, update our books, do photo shoots and collaborative projects, and travel to out of the ways spots to shop whenever we can.
MMWIS: What's the best part of being a business owner? The worst part?
Plume: The best part of having the business is being able to stretch out our creative limbs and find novel ways of engaging our audience. Perhaps our favorite creative outlet is styling for photo shoots. Whether it’s us behind the camera for the website or a group of creative individuals teaming up on a styled shoot, we have tons of fun pulling the clothing, matching the pieces, and then adding that extra bit of pizzazz when we’re in the moment shooting. It’s nice to have a partner you can trust to compliment your taste and fuel the creative fire. We are lucky to have two sets of inventory to pull from, yet a shared vision that always seems to blend so effortlessly. We also like to host special events in our shop so we’ve had several themed events with drinks, food, and music. It adds a personal element to the shopping experience and is equally fun to plan and organize.
Obliviously it’s also awesome to be your own boss. We set the rules, the expectations, the hours, etc. We develop a set of tasks for ourselves and each other. This can be a double edged sword as it can be difficult to hold yourself accountable sometimes. Our partnership comes in handy here because we push each other to do our best, but also lend a hand when one of us needs it. Two emotional and creative women working together can be trying, but we always manage to find common ground and come out stronger at the other end.
MMWIS: Favorite vintage item you've ever bought or sold?
Maggie: My favorite find ever was more of a jackpot lot. I started thrifting at age 16 and had my favorite Salvation Army in town. On one occasion, I found 20 plus vintage dresses dating late '60s to mid '70s. They had the most beautiful shapes, colors, and patterns and against better judgment, I bought them all! I guess you could say they were the impetus for my selling career and vintage hoarding habits. They were my first sales on eBay way back when and set this whole thing in motion.
Sheila: My favorite find ever was a beautiful '70s floral halter dress with a huge bouncy ruffle skirt spread out like wings. It sold on Etsy and I was very sad to see it go. It was used in one of our past fashion shows and it was such a statement piece. I hope whoever bought it loves it as much as I did.
MMWIS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
Maggie: My best advice to someone interested in having a business is to do what you love. Sounds generic, but it’s essential. You will inevitably have creative hang ups, business and personal lows, and be tested otherwise. The passion must be true and longstanding so you can fall in love over and over again, bring new meaning to this love, and in the process keep your business fresh. My love for vintage fashion was always there, but I didn’t always know how to keep the books, fit my customers, or even imagine myself opening a brick and mortar shop. These things have all fallen into place with time and practice and a generous learning curve.
Sheila: Plan as much as you can. We did a year of planning which wasn't intended but we are so happy it worked out this way. We were 100% ready!
MMWIS: What are you currently reading? Watching? Listening to?
Maggie: I am big into electronic music and always searching for something fresh and funky. Recent loves include Leon Vynehall, Lone, and DJ Seinfeld. Classics include Aphex Twin, Junior Boys, and Com Truise. I also love pop music, new and old, so getting to curate the music at the shop is always interesting and fun. I admittedly haven’t read much lately. Historically, I like reading postmodern authors like Don Delillo, articles focused on psychology and sociology, and many of the classics. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights will live in my heart forever. I don’t stay as current with TV as most, but recent series I have enjoyed include Westworld, Rick and Morty, and Handmaid's Tale.
Sheila: Not too much time to read or watch things these days for me, but I love the show OA. I listen to Glasser a lot at the shop.
MMWIS: If someone was visiting Wisconsin for the first time, what would you tell them to do first?
Maggie: Wisconsin is rich with culture, some of it being very specific to our area. Wisconsin is also wealthy in natural beauty so I guess a great way to blend those two would be to visit western Wisconsin. There you can check out the museum of oddities, House on the Rock, visit a supper club and sip on an Old Fashioned cocktail, see the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Taliesin, then drive through the rolling green hills to Baraboo and feed a frozen chicken to a lion or tiger at the Big Cat Rescue, camp or swim at Devil’s Lake State Park, antique through the small towns, visit a brewery, and then drive back through the capital city of Madison to visit a laid back college town with a reputation for drinking, partying, and cutting edge research.
Sheila: Go antiquing in Walkers Point, or shopping in Bayview at Plume (obviously), Ursa, Alive + Fine and many more.
MMWIS: Favorite thing about the Midwest?
Maggie: My favorite thing about the Midwest is the true sentiment of being kind to your neighbor. As a general rule, I think people here have good manners, a genuine desire to be helpful, patient, and kind, and a friendly, outgoing attitude. I see this in young and old alike. People make eye contact, say hello in passing, and put others before themselves. I lived in NYC for several years and the impersonality of the city really destroyed me. People are encouraged not to look around at each other even in close proximity and the result seems to be an inward focus rather than a participation in the collective. I love people, I love when people join together, and I think we all have a lot to learn about love, happiness, and fulfillment from one another.
Sheila: The down to earth people, the charm, the beautiful scenery.
MMWIS: How does your Midwest show through your personality and/or what you do?
Maggie: I feel like I am as Midwest as they come. I am friendly, personable, sometimes too nosey, and perfectly content with the simple things in life. This connection to my Midwest roots has further been solidified in my travels and living elsewhere. Things move just a wee bit slower here, but we have strong convictions, good intentions, great work ethic, and we certainly know how to toss ‘em back.
My Midwestern mentality also lends me a hand in my business as I have the opportunity to connect and communicate with many types of people who visit the shop. I enjoy striking up conversation, learning how others think and feel, and also giving them the gift of great fashion in return. If someone has an open mind and heart to receive my warmth and hospitality, we can have a great connection no matter how brief the encounter.
One other thing I wanted to mention about our business in relation to our Midwestern roots is that it expresses itself in the clothing we find. I have shopped all over the nation and abroad and you can see a marked difference in the regional trends. This has to do with weather, professional makeup, regional culture, and economic well-being. So it’s cool we have some tried and true fashions from our area, but we also do extensive traveling to collect from other places as well. Again, our focus is to keep our audience vast and growing.
Sheila: I'm Italian and I know many Italians immigrants migrated to the Midwest. I have a lot of great memories of my Italian grandmother, her cooking, her accent, etc.