Back in time

Stepping into decades past at Bootleg

Sue Reed (left) and Anita Oharra hang out with a super-stylin’ mannequin.

Sue Reed (left) and Anita Oharra hang out with a super-stylin’ mannequin.

Photo by Melissa Daugherty

Sue Reed shopped at secondhand stores before thrifting was cool. Back in the early 1980s, Reed and her best friend, Penelope, then in the seventh grade, went from shop to shop and scoured the racks for interesting items—clothing, shoes and accessories.

And so began Reed’s self-described obsession with vintage clothing. Over the years, her appreciation for apparel from bygone eras only grew. In fact, Reed says she was known, affectionately among her friends, as a vintage-clothes hoarder.

“I’d buy things that didn’t fit me, because they were too fabulous to pass up,” she said. “I was everyone’s personal stylist.”

Just over three years ago, after working mainly in the service industry, Reed turned from hobbyist to professional shopper and shop-keeper, fulfilling her longtime dream. She opened Bootleg, a high-quality vintage-apparel boutique in downtown Chico. Today, in addition to running the shop with help from Anita Oharra, Reed goes to flea markets, estate sales and secondhand stores to find the treasures that fill it up.

Bootleg is next to Ché Divina Salon on the hip block of Second Street, between Main and Broadway. Reed believes the location in the city center is integral to keeping the business sustainable. And the spot itself holds a special place in her heart because it’s where the old Hey Juan’s restaurant was located. That’s where Reed had her very first job, washing dishes, when she was 15 years old. The space has held numerous businesses since that time, including the beloved Juanita’s.

During a recent interview at the shop, Reed showed off a flowy purple dress that looked like it had been pulled right off one of the characters on Mad Men. Interestingly, Reed spent a few years in Los Angeles back in the early aughts, working as a wardrobe consultant on indie films. Today, she sometimes helps outfit productions at the Blue Room Theatre, including its current production, Taking Steps.

Reed’s clientele varies. Some shoppers just like wearing the better-made and unusual threads. Others come specifically to dress for specialty occasions, such as festivals and themed parties. Bootleg is filled to the brim in a well-organized fashion based in some cases by era, in others by style and brand.

A rack just inside holds coats, both fancy and casual, from such makers as I. Magnin. In a corner, shoppers will find denim, old-school Levi’s and other designer brands. Belts, buckles, handbags, gloves, even leather fannie packs (aka “festie bags”)—you name it, Reed likely has it. She’s known for carrying boots, including a large assortment by Frye. There’s a small selection of menswear, too. Reed keeps some of the rarer items stored away and shows them by appointment, and she continues to curate the stock to keep up with trends in vintage wear (believe it or not, the ’90s are in).

“It’s just fun to look at,” she said of the inventory. “It’s kind of a museum.”