This modern-day “trading post” has carved out a niche for itself on a quiet strip of College by catering to both clothes-shoppers and record-collectors.
According to co-owner Tamara Salpeter, Of a Kind is something of a modern-day riff on a trading post. Along with partners Kyle Turner, Jess Luu, and Robert Moseley, Salpeter has filled the former home of Marquee Video at 1037 College St. with a cross-section of men’s and women’s vintage clothing, vinyl records, zines, jewellery, and art.
“The base idea was that we wanted to be this interdisciplinary collective of everything that we love and that we’re obsessed with,” she says. “The more things we have to give to people, the more people will come in, the more types of people will come in, the more people with different interests will come in, and, therefore, more opportunities for us. Even though it seems like it might be all over the place, it actually is a unit in that it’s this one cultural hub. And that’s kind of what we’re going for: We’re not necessarily a shop first and foremost; it’s about supporting the community and people who wouldn’t necessarily be able to get out there in other ways.”
In addition to its retail function, Of a Kind plays host to a steady series of events (upcoming functions are posted on their Facebook page), focussed on emerging talent. “We change our art every six weeks and we have a little art opening” says Salpeter. “We’re having an EP release on Saturday for Sean Blackthorn—he’s a young R&B artist who’s amazing. We were an official North By Northeast venue, so we had 21 bands in three days and for Record Store Day we had 11 bands in one day.”
Local musicians are also encouraged to sell their music at the shop, with all the proceeds going back to the artist. “We only carry vinyl but, if it’s a local band, we’ll carry whatever you want—we have tapes and CDs and download cards,” says Salpeter. “And we don’t keep anything—we give everything back to the artist.”
Finding the space is what initially brought the owners together; Turner lives in the neighbourhood and serendipitously noticed the “for rent” sign when walking by one day. “We all wanted to do something like this, but it wasn’t until we had solidified the space that it became a real, tangible idea,” says Salpeter. “And we had to move on the space quickly; otherwise it was going to be rented out.”
While their chosen stretch of College certainly hasn’t reached the retail-destination status of a neighbourhood such as West Queen West, there is burgeoning growth. “This isn’t a shopping area—we’re coming in on the ground floor,” says Salpeter. “We invested in this space, hoping it would grow with the community, with [nearby eateries like] The Depanneur, with The Common, Bestellen, and Black Skirt.”
According to Salpeter, Of a Kind’s customers are primarily regulars who live in the neighbourhood, for the most part equally interested in the records and the vintage clothing. “There’s definitely people who do both and there’s lots of crossover,” she says. “I find that we do have people that come in here for one or other—some people come in and look through every single used record we have and won’t even look in the back. But I’d say mostly it’s crossover or couples—the girl is at the back [in the vintage clothing section] and the guy is looking at records.”
The Of a Kind crew have even managed to ingratiate themselves to the pre-school demographic. “This one kid came in and bought his first record ever,” says Salpeter. “It was an AC/DC record. He was, like, six!”