Today we’d like to introduce you to Jaimee Dormer.
Jaimee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started C2C six years ago in 2013 when I was living on the East Coast! I was born and raised in Connecticut, living in New York City, and had only known that side of the country for all my life. I was also working in retail, feeling burnt out on the city, and wanting to try something new before I turned 30! Expressing myself through clothing is in my DNA, and my love for vintage had been brewing since high school – starting a vintage shop that would also allow me to travel seemed too good to be true. This is when the idea for Coast to Coast Vintage started a fire in my gut, and I started saving for my dream!
I bought a 1976 trailer off of eBay in 2012 and enlisted the help of my amazing friend Andrea (a true Renaissance woman and my roommate at FIT) to spearhead converting it into a retail space! In six months time, Babygirl was ready to go and Coast to Coast was truly born. I started off selling at events locally in New York City, then my husband Adam and I hit the road to make the move to California and set up shop along the way, with a big event planned in Austin, TX and the rest of our “tour” TBD!
As anyone with big dreams knows, absolutely NOTHING is guaranteed to go as planned, and this was 100% the case for our first big trip across country. Events did not bring as much financial security as they had in NYC, there were no guidelines or road map for what we were doing as a mobile business and I was hustling to create my own path, I didn’t take out any loans so I was using credit cards, and to bring it all to a head we had to lay our beloved 17 year old cat Tigger to rest while in Colorado because of kidney failure. It was heartbreaking, it was a disaster, and I felt like a failure. We were on the road for just over two months, but it felt like a lifetime.
Adam and I made the decision to return home for a year to gather our bearings and grieve. We found a place in Southern Connecticut, we adopted a sweet kitten named Munchkin, and we put our heads down and saved, saved, saved. I even went back to my old job part-time just for the job security. I set up shop up and down the East Coast (and even the midwest!) when the weather was right – Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Georgia – I stayed BUSY. One year later, and we were ready to head out again to make California a reality!
We set off for Los Angeles in the Fall of 2014 with stops set up in Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, San Francisco, and Portland to help pay for the move. It took us a month to get across (with only some hiccups here and there, like the time both our Jeep AND the trailer got towed at midnight in downtown Champaign after a long day of selling and we had to walk a few miles to bail it out…..) and we had an apartment waiting for us in Silverlake once we arrived to LA! We moved in on Halloween, which was the first rainy day the city had seen in a long time, and woke up to a rainbow the next morning. We had made it!
We’ve lived in Los Angeles for five years as of this year! For the first two years we lived here, I did events all over California (and even some in Arizona!), but I decided to retire the trailer in 2016. Events every weekend were burning me out and I had built up a wonderful customer base from all my hustling at those events, so now I only sell online! It has been a truly wild six years, and I am so proud of what I have built.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh boy, definitely not! I outlined some of the specific struggles I have had in our C2C origin story, but I have learned so much from every obstacle I have faced. The very first event we did in NYC was in Chinatown for the Hester St Fair, and I had never driven that far with the trailer yet! I had to drive down the FDR Parkway (so bumpy!!!), and I thought at the time that it was a good idea to hang all the clothing up on the bars in the shop. I was….wrong. Very wrong. The trailer had no shocks, so it took absolutely every. single. bump. like it was an earthquake. By the time we arrived at the event, the bars were ripped off the walls and the clothing was all over the floor! My very good friend Josue (who had helped me with the interior set up) lived in Harlem and graciously came to Chinatown very early in the morning with a drill to help me out. As far as traveling with the business goes, there has been a LOT, but that would make this response way too long!
The transition from selling in person to online has also been a journey! Finding the right time to list, the right items to post and promote, marketing on Instagram (which is truly another full-time job), figuring out packaging and building customer relationships. Unlike with events, where I can at least expect a certain amount, online guarantees absolutely nothing and I have to hustle to make it work for me. It has all been a learning process that is still evolving, even after all this time!
I also struggle deeply with balancing my work/life schedule. I work just about seven days a week at various capacities because I am the only one doing it all, so allowing myself that space to step away and breathe has become more of an intense focus for me within the past year for my own well-being.
Coast to Coast Vintage – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from others?
I am so proud of what I have built in these past six years! I have always said that I buy for myself as the customer, and then hope that others will respond to what I have sourced. I specialize in colorful prints, unique but modern silhouettes, and comfortable fabrics! I love buying items that will make my customers stand out and feel confident! Personal style is so important to me – it is a language that presents our true selves to the world before saying a word. Everyone should know what it feels like to step out in something bold and fun and be complimented by others!
I believe what sets me apart from others is creating a niche corner in the vintage world. My number one advice to anyone who is starting out selling vintage is to create a style within what you sell, so that your pieces (even though you did not design them!), are recognizable to the customers who will identify with what you curate! I have had many people send me items through Instagram to say “This looks like C2C!” “This looks like you!”, and to me that is the highest compliment because it means I am representing myself and my brand 100%!
I have also started utilizing my Instagram platform more with the past few years to amplify social justice issues, which is something I should have been doing all along, but it is important to me as a small business for my customers to know what I will or will not stand for.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career so far is the idea of Coast to Coast Vintage, because dreaming this big has allowed me to carve out a path for *myself*! I have officially worked longer for myself than I had for any company before, and I am the one who made it happen! It’s a very empowering thing to remind myself of when I’m going through the inevitable rougher moments of being a small business owner.
- Website: https://www.coasttocoastvintage.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_coasttocoastvintage_/
Jaimee Dormer for all images, except for the one of me in my office that is a higher res which was taken by Marisa Vitale for Apartment Therapy