Creatives, Entrepreneurs, Fashion, Features

Vintage Gold Rush: Matt Choon’s Gen Z retail empire

It’s more than a thrift store.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Nov 8, 2022

Every generation is different than ones that came before and the ones that will follow. This is common knowledge, and very obvious, but the generation that confuses everyone who isn’t a part of it, is Gen Z. As someone who is, I don’t get why. What’s not to get? The internet raised us, so we crave authenticity. Someone else who gets it? Matt Choon, owner of NYC’s Bowery Showroom.

 

A fellow member of this age, Choon has his hand on the vibe, and his multi-functional thrifting-centric brick-and-mortar is a testament to that — so much so, that 7 figures a year later, previous tastemakers come to him for advice.

 

Connecting to a new generation

As Choon explains it, catering to Gen Z is about the reason behind what you’re selling rather than the products. That’s what Bowery Showroom excels in, and maybe that’s because it functions as a storefront with¬†the intent of serving as a content space. At first glance, you can tell that it isn’t your run-of-the-mill thrift store, even from the employees.

 

“A lot of the people that work out of here…they’re all actually content creators. It’s more about providing the experience and how we display that online. So whatever is reflected digitally is what you get when you come into the store and experience.”

 

bowery showroom interior

Photo via Bowery Showroom

 

What does that content-driven, storytelling experience look like? Think of every interaction you’ve had at Supreme or Nike and flip it completely. “We look at how a lot of these streetwear brands of the past operated, and it was under the idea that to be cool, you had to be exclusive, and that came with a level of elitism. Whereas, we’re more genuine and open to people, like that balance between inclusivity and exclusivity is huge, right? But you also get a different experience, because you get to actually be in the content. So we interview people, we ask them about their outfits.”

 

“What we do is we story-tell. And we try to actually evoke emotion that’s genuine out of [the customers].” All this in an effort to personalize the experience, guaranteeing that shoppers leave with something — that doesn’t have to be physical.

 

Vintage tells a story to Gen Z

Even the building itself is different. Described as a “concept store and cultural hub focused on independent designers, local artists, and vintage clothing,” Bowery Showroom serves as a hotspot for unique exhibitions that highlight New York culture in the new generation. Some of the activations aren’t related to thrifting at all, rather, the culture surrounding the generation that turned vintage shopping into a viral gold rush.

 

“Vintage is a big part of understanding what, during that time period, is so interesting. And that’s part of understanding vintage at its core,” Choon explains. “What are people living through during that period? What was the energy in the air in the 80s? What is that band tee really capturing?”

 

bowery showroom clothing

Photo via Bowery Showroom

 

Makes sense, when you dig deeper into the space and find that it works for the new creative. Remember how the employees are influencers, trained to give you a well-rounded experience? They’re also trained to assist in the content house portion, serving “as a residence for creatives to create content for our social media platforms, such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.” And because the employees are already viral, they’re “open for appointments to create content with customers, artists, designers, entrepreneurs, creatives, and students.”

 

Creativity, community, and content

“So like, the whole idea is that you might be walking in as a customer, but you might also see us doing a photo shoot. You get to hang out with us, sit on the couch, maybe make a little TikTok.”

 

Running multiple creative hustles out of one space definitely means that Choon is a busy guy. His innovative use of an extremely dope-looking store is only where he’s at right now. It takes a special kind of person to have this type of business. He, for example, started vintage selling when he was in grade school, copping fits for the low on eBay and flipping them for a profit.

 

“It’s very different than a brand new shoe that was manufactured a couple of months ago versus like, a T-shirt that that might tell a story, right? There might be certain tears and rips and the idea that it’s been passed on to many people down to our shop in 2022. It tells a story.”

 

Through that hustle, he made friends, business partners, and gained an invaluable education, but not just from college. No, the streets of New York honed his innovative skills, and that’s why the Bowery Showroom is one of the heartbeats of the new generation. It’s New York bred and raised, so it’s only fitting it serves as a vessel for creativity.

 

See Bowery Showroom in action on IG, and learn more about authenticity from our Brand Masters segment with Hayden Cassidy.

 

Bowery Showroom
57 Stanton St.
New York, NY 10002

 

Photo via Matt Choon