Found snugly attached to a tattoo parlor and across the street from a guerilla art gallery is the ultimate curio shop. To the left of the door, shelf after shelf overflows with horse opera cowboy boots, and to the right, glittering disco dresses casually converse on hanging racks with extravagant mink coats. If lucky, one might get the chance to peep in the back to catch the secrets spun in a fortune teller’s tale. Welcome to the Dolly Python Vintage Store, run and curated by the one and only Gretchen Bell.
Whether it be teens, college kids or “out of towners looking for cowboy boots and hats,” as Bell puts it, Dolly Python caters to all. With its charm and diversity, this vintage store provides a portrayal of the city it calls home: Dallas.
The store captures Dallas’ love for all things flashy, and the vintage Gucci promptly displayed at the front of the store calls to anyone with hair over an inch tall. Yet, as any true Dallasite knows, it isn’t all glitz and glam. The worn cowboy boots, western paraphernalia meant to serve as house decor and assortment of records and old photographs reflect Dallas’ love for all things Texas and all things random.
As the city of Dallas continues to grow in diversity, Dolly Python continues to reflect this growth. Bell said 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 both “odd and peculiar.”
Bell proudly defends her store’s oddball position. Think John Wayne and the roaring 20’s.
“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,” she said.
While traditional vintage is often seen as Nana’s outlet mall designer, and can often get a bad reputation as dusty and stuffy, Dolly Python seeks to reclaim vintage for a new generation. For Bell, vintage is the epitome of cool, and she seeks to collect one-of-a-kind pieces that are covetable in any decade.
Bell labelled Dolly Python as “a little low brow, a little nostalgic, a little kitschy, geared towards young people.”
In contrast to the immediate online-shopping experience sweeping out retail, Dolly Python seeks to set itself apart by focusing on not only selling great merchandise but also providing shoppers with a memorable experience.
Though Dolly Python has an online store and Instagram, Bell said that they “like to do a little of both. You can go buy something online, but I like having the physical store because it’s not just shopping for people, it’s the experience.”
Adding to the diversity of the Dolly Python experience is a fortune teller who resides in a tent at the back of the store. The reader offers palm and tarot card readings and does her best to represent a 19th century gypsy woman at a starting price of $15.
While it may seem strange that both the future and past are coworkers at Dolly Python, Bell believes that the two work together in harmony. “The future becomes the past,” she said.
Bell said 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 said, “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 completely changed its course.
Reflecting on how Dolly Python has changed her life, Bell said, “Oh my God, for the better and for the worse. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much about life and people, both good things and disappointing things.”
Bell finds that the store acts as a reflection of herself. As she grows older, the store evolves to mature along with her while always maintaining its odd-ball aesthetic.
“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. She looked down at her faded camo jumpsuit and then inspected the eclectics around her store.
Although Bell pours an unmeasurable amount of love and care into Dolly Python, she also has a 1-year-old son whom she hopes to raise with the values she has ingrained in her store.
Speaking on her son’s future, Bell said, “I hope 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 did know that she wanted to run one. She started working at 16 to save up money for her dream.
When she first opened the store, 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 said, “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 the city, serving as a reminder of the past and welcoming the future.
Image courtesy of Google Images