Shop owners Bradley Rhea and Jonathan Saupe inspire locals and tourists alike with their wide array of fantastic vintage finds at their location in the historic Chinatown neighborhood.
Text and images by Torrey Seabolt
Under the iconic green paneled face of Mark’s Building on Nu‘uanu Avenue sits Barrio Vintage’s brightly hued storefront, perfectly decorated with their signature Chanel mannequins from the 1960s and vintage name-stamped hand luggage. Barrio carries an array of women’s and men’s retro-wear that will have any colorful pattern-loving vintage shopper coming back daily if they can, just to be sure they don’t miss out on any of the frequent additions to the shop. On the racks and in stacks, Barrio boasts clothing from any period between the ’50s and the ’90s, and no shortage of costume jewelry.
Tucson-native Bradley Rhea and his partner, Jonathan Saupe, who is from Illinois, started Barrio as a pop-up shop after moving into the Chinatown Artist’s Lofts three years ago. “We knew that we wanted to work with fashion, and we would go in with that angle, but we weren’t necessarily sure what we wanted to do,” explains Bradley, “so we just had a rack or two of like 20 items on a First Friday and just had a bunch of champagne and invited people in, and it was more like playing dress up really.” The items were initially from Bradley and Jonathan’s own collection, but after that night, they began to receive donations and thrifted around to stock up for another round of sales.
Little did these two know how popular their cozy, champagne-fueled project would become. A few months later, they were able to go to the mainland for their first buying trip, and these days, they go on these trips every three to four months. “This June, we brought back 13 boxes. Insane, insane process,” says Jonathan. Typically, the two stay in the southwest region of the United States, where they favor the general style of clothes and are familiar with the area, and where they like the dry climate, which is ideal for preserving vintage clothing.
Opening the brick-and-mortar Barrio shop was all about perfect timing and everything falling into place. Bradley recalls, “Actually, I was a bit nervous to open a store and Jonathan was just like, ‘No, let’s just do it.’” So after six months of hosting their pop-up shop in the artist’s lofts, they rented out their first space on Nu’uanu Avenue, and the rest is history. “We never really viewed it as selling vintage. I mean, yeah, we are bringing in vintage, but we didn’t think at first that we were opening a vintage boutique. And I still don’t really think that. It’s kind of just cool and fun clothing,” says Bradley.
When asked about their style inspirations, Jonathan is quick to exclaim, “Parker Posey in Party Girl … Romy and Michelle!” Bradley adds, “Jonathan has crazy taste. He buys a lot of the crazy ’80s, ’90s Looney Tunes, hot pink stuff, and all sorts of really wild stuff, and I dive into more of like the paisleys and refined things. … The ’70s stuff, I cant get enough of.” Somehow, it all works out for the two. Says Jonathan, “We usually agree on more than we disagree on though, as far as what we like in the store.” Their differences in taste are what give Barrio such a great selection.
Barrio is the go-to spot in Chinatown for great vintage clothing, and Jonathan and Bradley are excited to be part of the developing community in the area. “To us, this neighborhood screams vintage. There was a sort of calling here, that building where we first were and the artist lofts are super retro. There’s so much history here, I think it fits to have these vintage throwback shops,” says Jonathan. “This building just feels like it has a good presence,” says Jonathan, before Bradley chimes in saying, “This part of Nu‘uanu is incredible. This little corner has such an amazing energy about it.”
Visit Barrio Vintage at 1161 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu. For more information, visit barriovintage.com.