I wandered into the dark, hidden store. To my left were shelves overflowing with cowboy boots, and to my right I saw a mixture of glittering disco dresses and extravagant fur coats. I peeped in the back and saw a makeshift tent protecting the secrets a fortune teller is spilling. No, this isn’t a scene from a dream, this is Dolly Python Vintage Store.
Whether it be teens, college kids, or “out of towners looking for cowboy boots and hats,” as owner Gretchen Bell puts it, Dolly Python caters to all, and with its odd charm and diversity, this vintage store provides a portrayal of the city it calls home: Dallas.
As the city of Dallas continues to grow in diversity, Dolly Python continues to reflect this growth, with Bell saying her customers are, “really wealthy people, really poor people, and people from all ethnicities, and I love that.”
As well as having a diversity of customers, Dolly Python also has a diversity of pre-owned objects for sale, with customers describing them as, “odd and peculiar.”
When asked about the reasoning behind these descriptions, Bell says, “Well, we are kinda young and peculiar. There are a lot of interesting things here. There are a lot of subculture stuff and music. There’s just kinda off-the-cuff stuff that’s not traditional. It’s not negative by any means. To me, it’s a compliment because it’s setting me apart from other people.”
While traditional vintage is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as, “something of high quality, especially something from the past or characteristic of the best period of a person’s work,” Dolly Python has its own take on the word.
Bell labeled the kind of vintage her store was as, “a little low brow, a little nostalgic, a little kitschy, geared towards young people.”
Unlike other vintage stores, Dolly Python is focused not on just the selling of their goods but with providing shoppers an experience.
Though Dolly Python has an online store and Instagram, Bell says that they, “like to do a little of both. You can go buy something online, but I like having the physical store because it is not just shopping for people, it’s the experience.”
Adding to the Dolly Python experience is a fortune teller who does palm and tarot card readings at the back of the store.
At a starting price of 15 dollars, you can enter a closed off area and have your future predicted while you are surrounded by objects of the past.
While some may find it strange that both the future and past can be seen at Dolly Python, Bell believes that the two work together in harmony and are connected because, “the future becomes the past.”
Bell says that the fortunes “sometimes come true, but it’s just a fun little additive we have here that people enjoy.” When asked if she believes in the fortune telling, she says, “Yes, and no. You don’t want to stop your life from happening based on what someone else says”
As for Bell’s future, the opening of the store 19 years ago has completely changed its course.
Reflecting on how it has changed her life, Bell said, “Oh my God, for the better and for the worst. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much about life and people, both good things and disappointing things”
As for the effect Bell has on the store, it is a complete mirror of her personality.
“I am everything in here, from the dirt on the floor to the jewelry, this store is absolutely a reflection of who I am internally,” said Bell as she affectionately looks around the store.
Dolly Python is not Bell’s only baby, she also has a 1-year old boy.
When Bell speaks about her sons future, she says that she, “hopes he is able to appreciate the past. I hope it will provide him an education, and I hope he learns to love different kinds of people, just like the stores taught me”
Bell had no clue how much owning a vintage store would teach her, but she knew that she wanted to run one, and started working at 16 to save money for her dream.
When she first opened, Bell said that she, “was young and real optimistic. I just did the best I could. It was an experiment at first, and luckily it succeeded.”
As for advice for fellow girls hoping to fulfill their dreams, Bell says, “Blaze your own trail, and don’t let anybody your age intimidate you. Be an individual; don’t be a click. Make your own way, because I know it’s possible; I am absolutely proof of that. You just need to be proud of who you are and just be a good person.”
As the future of Dallas continues to grow and diversify, Dolly Python will be right there with it, serving as a reminder of the past and welcoming the future.