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Retro rebound

Throwback style is back, and this time, it resembles the old-school, handcrafted fare of bygone centuries.

Marisa Mohi November 6th, 2013

Quality and tradition are driving factors behind the success of many local businesses, whether they specialize in antiques, personal care or even beer. Shops like Bradford Ink Antiques, Carwin’s Shave Shop and The Brew Shop not only provide products and services that can’t be found just anywhere; they also offer customers an escape from the monotony of their average experience.

Oklahoma City businesses are appealing to a new aesthetic. Whether the Great Recession changed what consumers are looking for or the drive to find local options has empowered businesses to offer something beyond the mainstream, Oklahoma City’s shopping landscape has evolved to include some throwback products and services that resemble those of the ’80s.

The 1880s.

Talkin’ shop
Chuck Naifeh, a 19th-century-style barber who works at Carwin’s Shave Shop, explained, “Now that we have technology that does everything for us, we’re trying to find things that are done by hand.”

Carwin’s is located at 5710 N. Classen Blvd. in Classen Curve.

The shave shop offers barbershop services, including haircuts and hot shaves. However, unlike the typical salon, Carwin’s takes a more traditional approach to treating its customers.

Perhaps it’s the prevalence of technology that leads shoppers to search for something that isn’t mass-produced and the reason some stores are taking older items or ways of doing things and turning them into viable businesses.

Business of brew
Gail White, owner of The Brew Shop, noted that her customers come in knowing that they’re signing themselves up for work. Customers always have the option to buy ready-made beer and wine at a liquor store, but beyond the packaging, White is selling an experience, as well as an opportunity to experiment and learn.

“It’s almost always about the hobby part. It’s not so much about producing something that you can already get,” White said.

The Brew Shop, located at 3624 N. Pennsylvania Ave., specializes in equipment and ingredients for making beer and wine. The store is packed with corks, grains and bottling supplies.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s something anybody can learn,” said White. “Everyone that comes in makes something different.”

There are many appealing aspects of home brewing. While the widespread availability of mass-produced beer may be convenient, these modern conveniences can lead to mediocrity or a level of complacency on the part of the producer.

The romanticism associated with self-sufficiency, as well as with the artistry and skill required, can often be a substantial personal reward.

Pen it
Brewing aside, taking ownership of the day-to-day by lowering consumption of mass-produced items is a lifestyle in itself. And from food to personal care, building a life with personalized details can reach every area of existence.

Bob Bradford, owner of Bradford Ink, echoed White’s sentiment about the fun and and rewarding aspect of nodding to yesteryear.

“Regardless of what you’re trying to collect, do something that you enjoy because that really puts the fun in it,” Bradford said.

And he should know. Bradford’s pen stock started out as his personal collection of pens, a fascination that began when his father gave him a Parker 51 — a fountain pen for those serious about the craft.

His store has been open for four years. A well-kept secret in Oklahoma City, Bradford Ink has three rooms full of some of the most lovingly curated and eclectic mix of fountain pens and ink wells, in addition to assorted antiques.

Bradford recognizes that fountain pens aren’t necessarily for everyone. Writing by hand has been on the decline since the introduction of typewriters and especially computers. Also, the gear that goes with fountain pen writing can sometimes be prohibitive.

“You look at some of the collectible Montblancs, and they’ll run you $3,000 or $4,000. If you’re a pen collector, you have to just consider that a work of art,” said Bradford.

A pretty, pretty penny
While the upfront cost of a fountain pen or the work that comes with home brewing may seem unattractive to some, the prevalence and growth of similar-minded businesses in the Oklahoma City area indicates that the more purposeful life appeals to many.

Naifeh acknowledged that the services his shave shop offers may be more expensive than the average trip to a chain salon. For Naifeh, the demand for products and services that harken to a simpler time is part of a larger nationwide trend that has only recently reached Oklahoma.

He believes the costs associated with the craftsmanship are well worth it.

“When the demand is high, you can charge whatever you think you’re worth. People are valuing themselves a lot more, and I think as a city, if we value ourselves more, then other people are going to see us that way.”

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