Rhubarb Jumble is a quirky, vintage boutique based on North Street in Bedminster, specialising in fashion and homewares from the 1950s to the 1970s. Owner Amy Hamilton was inspired to open her own shop after realising her love for all things vintage may have got a little out of control and came up with a plan to find new homes for some of the gems she had been collecting.
“I am absolutely a hoarder!” laughs Amy. “I love vintage and I had lots of clothes I didn’t wear. I started a market stall, which went really well, so I started buying more vintage items and it escalated. My husband and I did the markets as a hobby and then, with the money we made, we would go on holiday and find more vintage items in interesting places. We did that for years until I decided I really wanted to do this full time.”
“Whilst selling at the Tobacco Factory Markets we got a real good clientele and customer base,” explains Amy. “We never had a bad day there. At other markets and fairs we would have good and bad days, but we always knew we would do well at the Tobacco Factory.
“We wanted to open a shop in the same area and this space came up on North Street. We have peaks and troughs like any shop but the majority of the time the shop sustains itself.”
Initially starting as a fashion boutique, Amy’s love of vintage naturally progressed into collecting homewares and quirky retro items too and since opening the Rhubarb Jumble shop back in 2014, Amy has introduced small items of furniture too.
“I have been doing an upholstery course for the past six months and I’ve been finding old furniture and upcycling them to sell in the shop,” says Amy proudly.
Rhubarb Jumble have recently launched their spring range with an event to showcase the new season’s stock. Keeping things fresh in a vintage shop is quite a difficult thing to do: as it’s all pre-loved clothing, there are no big fashion drops.
Vintage fashion is sustainable and ethical as it isn’t adding to mass production and is even contributing to slowing it down, and Rhubarb Jumble certainly have the right idea on how they can keep things new and exciting without having to add brand new lines.
“I have amazing staff, who are really dedicated and help to maintain the shop every week, putting out new stock so we are never stagnant here. You will see lots of new things on each visit – I literally have a shipping container full of stock to rotate!” laughs Amy.
“We also do £5 market sales too, to sell off old stock. About three quarters of what’s in the shop for the spring launch has been completely unseen, and that’s why we get a good following: people who come to our events know they are not going to have seen this stuff yet. It’s a really good way to give the new season a good burst!
“It’s also really fun and people are upbeat and come and support us. It’s been amazing.”
Over the years Amy, has built up lots of useful contacts and as a family, alongside her husband and young son, take trips abroad over the summer to update their stock that they then showcase at their seasonal events.
“Last year we went to Germany, Denmark and Belgium. We just take the van across and camp, and then I drive the family around flea markets,” she says. “I love it, it’s like my dream job!”
From a twee orange sailor dress to vintage hair slides and Hawaiian shirts to a retro Fisher Price record player, you never quite know what you are going to find at Rhubarb Jumble.
With online shopping becoming more relevant, Amy explains how important it is to research which platforms work best for your business: “We sell mostly on Etsy and that’s been going really well. I tried to sell the vintage clothing on Depop for a while but it just didn’t work for us; everyone wants the 90s branded sportswear on there and that’s not what we do. Fashion from the 50s to the 70s is what works the most for us online.”
It’s not only online that Amy noticed a change in clientele: it turns out Bristol can be quite fickle when it comes to fashion too. “I don’t live in the same area as the shop – I live in Easton – but it’s great being part of two communities as they are both really different,” she explains.
“The Bristol style is interesting. When I did markets, I had a much younger clientele, but with the shop we get a lot more mums and people a little bit older. We initially tried to get a shop in town but I think if we had we would have carried on getting a younger clientele, where people are a bit more interested in the 90s, so the stock would need to suit the clientele. I sell a lot more 50s, 60s and 70s stuff on North Street.”
Knowing their clientele and what works for their business is something Rhubarb Jumble do really well. With sights set on growing their online presence and working with what they already have, this quirky and forward-thinking vintage shop is determined to become a big part of Bristol’s growing vintage fashion scene.
Rhubarb Jumble, 52 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 1HJ
Read our Fashion Editor Emma’s blog No Debutante