Artist and bargain hunter Christine Francis-Barta grew up in a family of collectors. Following in mom and dad’s footsteps, she began selling antiques and collectibles on eBay back in the ‘90s and later went on to open an Etsy shop called Carmen & Ginger (named after her two cats) in 2009. “I began by pulling things out of drawers and then started shopping for things to resell,” Christine explains of her humble beginnings. “Eventually I started honing the brand and focusing more.”
With a few years of digital shopkeeping experience under her belt, the entrepreneur took a leap of faith by quitting her full-time job to open up a brick and mortar store inside the Arcade. “I was tired of driving two hours each day to sit in a cubicle,” Christine says with a laugh. “When I heard about the Arcade renovation it seemed like a perfect fit.”
As a huge admirer of anything unique and old, I couldn’t wait to visit the store. Upon first glance Carmen & Ginger is a warm, inviting space, chock full of kitschy goodies in all colors of the rainbow. The inventory – 85% vintage – comprises clothing, accessories, jewelry, cameras, sewing notions, house wares, linens and more. Mothers of infants, or ladies who are shopping for a friend’s baby shower, will love all of the adorable knickknacks with which to deck a nursery. There are no cookie cutter gifts here.
Items start at just $1 so visitors can always leave with something special; there are several charming black and white photos at that price point just begging to be brought home and framed.
“I have two fellow local vintage resellers who each have an ‘arm’ of clothing on consignment in the shop to supplement my own finds,” Christine says. “My employee Val has a great eye for ‘70s and ‘80s styles that the local students especially love, while Michelle of the Red Velvet Shoe finds lovely higher end mid-century items that are perfect for special events.
Speaking of mixing up old and new, Christine, who describes her own sense of style as comfortable, vintage and “does-not-need-to-be-ironed,” has a bit of advice for incorporating second hand finds into your spring wardrobe. “I am an advocate for adding one or two pieces but not necessarily dressing vintage from head to toe. Jewelry is always a great choice. Some lawyers downtown love to buy vintage cufflinks from me.”
On the evening of May 8, The Arcade is sponsoring a Mother’s Day Fashion Show during which Carmen & Ginger, along with other Arcade retailers, will dress local mother and daughter models. “You’ll get some great fashion ideas by attending the show and are welcome to stop by the shop to talk to Val or I about what might work best for you.”