Dual business boosts downtown

Love it-LaVintage owners hope to capitalize on resurgence

A pair of veteran entre­preneurs has started a dual business downtown that they hope can catch a quality they believe has begun again to radiate in Altoona’s old business district.

“Altoona hasn’t been called cool for a long time,” said LaVonne Falbo, the owner, along with Deb Love, of Love it-LaVintage on 11th Avenue, speaking at a recent meeting of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp.

But downtown has begun to be cool, with people walking around, dining out for lunch and checking into stores like hers and Love’s, Falbo said.

Love it-LaVintage consists of two separate businesses co-mingled on the shop floor of what used to be Darlene’s Kids Shop and before that, William F. Sellers Jewelry Store.

Love’s “upcycle boutique” buys and sells lightly used designer clothing, purses and shoes, while Falbo’s sells “artistically” painted furniture from the mid-20th century or before that and also rents vintage props for events, especially weddings.

The double store has been open about two months.

“We love it,” Falbo said.

It’s Love’s third location, along with a store in State College and one in Huntingdon, where she only takes items on consignment.

It’s Falbo’s second location, after LaVintage Decor in Juniata.

Some of the things Love takes in need to be reconditioned; some of them do not.

She doesn’t sell items older than a year-and-a-half.

Clothing that is doomed not to sell goes to a local, community-based charity.

“This is making everybody happy,” Love said.

The seller gets something for items no longer wanted, the buyer gets something nice at a reasonable price and “I’m making a little,” Love said. “It keeps me and LaVonne off the street,” she added.

The operation enables an “everyday person” to buy high-end things, said Cindy Wagner of Huntingdon, a friend of Love’s who was working in the Altoona store recently.

Love is like many of her customers — a thrift-shopping addict.

“When I walk into a store, it’s like I can breathe again,” she said. “Retail therapy.”

So she finds it “relaxing” to go through items brought to her store by those who provide the raw material for the operation.

Retail has struggled in downtowns since most merchandisers fled to suburban shopping centers where parking was plentiful, starting in mid-20th century. But stores like Love it-LaVintage skirt the troubling issues thanks to their individual appeal as shopping destinations — stores that people come specifically to visit, according to GAEDC CEO Patrick Miller.

Such venues tend to be “unique” — not found in the malls, Miller said.

Now that Altoona’s downtown is beginning to accumulate more and more of them, including places to eat and drink, it would seem they’d collectively start to exert the kind of pull that the suburban shopping centers have long exerted — such that shoppers gravitate there for the multiplicity of options and not necessarily to visit a particular destination store, Miller said.

In Altoona, the options include The Clay Cup, Fox Hollow Boutique, Kerr Kreations Floral & Gift Shoppe, Trade Secrets and Railroad City Brewing Co. — and will soon include The Bakery and JJ Hadley & Co.

Those who live downtown, those who work downtown and those who come downtown for services — including medical services — are in the potential pool of patrons for such businesses, Miller said.

It’s the kind of situation that occurs in a “livable city,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.