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Rising Art: Rising Tiny Vintage Store

Upstairs inside Unique Products, a clothing and accessories store specializing in recycled Mardi Gras bead creations that has been an anchor to the 2000 block of Magazine for years, is Blue Dream, a tiny, fledgling business that is just getting its start, like a rosebud. Or, like a satin rosebud on a vintage dress that a very hip girl who's not from here repurposes as a day dress to galavant around downtown New Orleans. Or, like a rogue, spore-propagating plant (in environmental science, an "invasive species" or a "non-indigenous" plant) putting down roots.

Unique Products, too, got its start in the the little loft space 12 years ago, carrying objects and wearables of the funky, one-of-a-kind variety. The landlord was ready to rent out the space and contacted Akasha Rabut, a friend and former employee of Unique Products.

Backtracking, Akasha moved here from San Francisco a year ago, and had been selling vintage clothes at flea markets such as Avant Garden last October, and had met Sam Feather, her now-boyfriend, three months ago. Sam was interested in selling vintage, and a mutual friend introduced him to Akasha shortly after he arrived from Brooklyn.

Sam said they started talking about what would become Blue Dream the day they met. Then they started shopping together. "Our first dates were all at thrift stores," he says. Sam and Akasha hit up thrift stores, estate sales, and his favorite--big antique flea markets, where they find gems and deals among the varied booths.

They tested their wares at Flea Lot at T-Lot and Freret Market, and did a last sweeping road trip searching for clothes that brought them through Mississippi, a folk festival in Seale, Alabama, and a commune in Tennessee.

In 23 days they moved the former tenant out, painted, built fixtures, and opened on April 9.

Feather and Rabut's aesthetic is equal parts trendy and hippie. There is an idealization of the old, a lost nostalgia. And it's so hip it will soon have passed by.

Blue Dream is the opposite of the detached large-scale shopping experience. It represents shopping coming back in a small-scale, intimate, buy-sell-trade exchange of recycled goods. Blue Dream will even carry small-production Nicaraguan chocolate, made of gourmet cocoa and ethically produced. Exclusive in New Orleans, the chocolate connection is something they picked up on the Tennessee leg of their road trip.

Blue Dream is something in the vein of a "Pop-Up" shop, or a Speakeasy restaurant. It actually makes a lot of sense as the economy continues to deflate-- gain a following, make some money, grow your business while the stakes are low. The success of their sales will depend on making sure people know about their clothes, and know that they can be a part of the place by selling and trading.

Sam and Akasha had an opening, like a gallery opening, April 9, complete with folk musicians, Ponchatoula strawberries, and lots of trendy young people. I remarked to my friends, "Now THIS is like my hometown (in North Carolina)," while simultaneously another friend maintained it was the spitting image of San Francisco, and another, that it was a deep Brooklyn reflection.

Sam believes, in addition to the Americana and fancy free of their multi-state wares, "The aesthetic is here." We decided after a roundabout discussion that this type of business is inspirational, in the sense that it is neither in a largely underutilized warehouse or on a table on the side of the road. It is an intermediate form.

And, this thing we all recognized, a little bit of Sam and Akasha's city pasts, a little bit of down home America, is present everywhere. It's new, it's fresh, it's the clothing of the internet generation, it's packing itself into small spaces, trying to make the best of what's there.

Sam is hoping more people "will turn their own hobbies or ideas into businesses." He says, "If there were more people doing this, I would be really excited, not discouraged."