Getting Lost at Top Shelf Vintage Company: An Interview with Annie

If you live in Rhode Island and you haven’t visited Annie and Doug at Top Shelf Vintage must. Top Shelf is not just a store, but a destination, tucked into Pawtucket Rhode Island. I had the pleasure of chatting with and interviewing the owner Annie, and she was nothing short of amazing. Annie is warm, funny, welcoming and so kind (“too nice”, as she describes herself). And her shop? Full to the brim with vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, and other goodies. Truly, there are items hanging from the ceiling; every inch is covered and colorful and just so much fun to look at.

"The best part of being a small business owner? Definitely the connection with straight-up rando’s. With strangers."

Annie has always had a love for vintage clothing and her skill for selling started young. “I’ve been selling since I was a sophomore in high school,” Annie says, explaining that she was always in thrift stores and loved to find pieces that maybe weren’t right for her, but a friend would love. This is what got the ball rolling for Annie, who started out selling vintage clothing to friends and online. Today she has this beautiful business; a building she and her partner Doug have been in for two years. “Two years and still getting new faces in every day, so it’s fun.” You can tell that Annie really enjoys the connectivity of it all and finds genuine joy in meeting new people. She even pinpoints this as the best part of being a small business owner. “The best part is definitely the connection,” she says, “with straight-up rando’s. With strangers.”

It’s clear to me that the feeling must be mutual for her customers; Annie is a ray of light, constantly laughing and radiating a genuine joy for what she does. “There’s a smidge of connection you get from it,” she says when explaining her favorite thing about vintage clothing. “If you see someone wearing something dope that’s vintage, you’re gonna be like ‘whoa’...” she adds, as we enthusiastically discuss the ability that vintage clothing gives us to express ourselves in a way that is completely different from the people around us.

Annie takes a simple approach to picking the pieces that she displays in her store; “Honestly, just what I like.” She explains that she and her partner function on the idea “If you’re gonna buy it, you gotta love it forever” explaining that if no one ever buys it, they are stuck with it, so it better be great. “If you love it, you can gas it up,” she adds, giving some insight into her selling process. Annie is passionate about the pieces she puts in her shop, and she truly wants to help her customers find something special that they feel equally passionate about. She is her happiest when she gets to play dress-up for twenty minutes with a person that comes into her shop.

"They just want somewhere to hang out,

so this is a great spot"