The following is writer Heather McTear’s next contribution to her vintage/thrift store article series in Echo Park. She welcomes us to appreciate the vintage scene in Echo Park by relating good deals, and letting us in on the histories of the shops and owners. Previously Heather featured Sunday’s Best.
Christmas Past: ChicagoLand
I have to admit, I get homesick every year around Christmas time.
When I was a kid growing up in Indiana, my parents would put us in the car and drive just over an hour to see the Christmas lights in Chicago, the place where they first kissed, fell in love, and dad decided he wanted to marry mom.
It’s a trick of nature the weather plays on us in the Midwest: Below zero, the wind whips and the cold takes the breath right out of your chest. But then there’s (usually at least one good winter’s kiss), the sight of Buckingham Fountain and the Chicago skyline, and, well, here I am forty years later reminiscing about the place.
I guess you could say I grew up in Indiana, but my first love is Chicago—because there’s just nothing like seeing those Christmas lights lining The Magnificent Mile.
And while I relished the seventy-five degrees in Echo Park last week, I looked at my artificial tree with fake pinecones and berries and decided only shopping could shake my Christmas blues.
I walked down to a vintage store I’d not yet been to a few blocks away called Hutch.
Pleasant surprise is an understatement.
I’ll get to the details after I first say that within a minute or two, I found out the (friendliest) woman who greeted us is the owner, Natalie Hutcheson, who grew up in the Midwest and moved here from…you guessed it, Chicago.
Needless to say, a Midwest reunion ensued.
I walked out of there an hour later, no longer homesick, and had promised my new BFF Natalie that I was going to write-up her store. Because Indiana Hoosiers keep their word (or try their hardest), here’s the lowdown on Hutch.
Christmas Present: Get Nostalgic at Hutch
Alright, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased. As I’ve previously stated my new BFF is Natalie Hutcheson, owner of Hutch on Sunset in Echo Park.
But it’s not just because she’s from the Midwest and moved here from Chicago.
Okay, maybe that helps a little bit. The truth is there’s something about this little storefront that made me wonder what vibe it would be. I’d passed by it in my car a hundred times and told myself I had to stop in and see.
Anyone who’s been to visit Hutch can probably tell you what the vibe is: Hip, hip, hooray.
Hutch is small. But it’s select. Not packed but with just the right amount of housewares and clothing, as well as artwork and jewelry, shoes too, Hutch makes you stop and look.
All of the vintage clothing ranges in price from $20 and under, which is exceptional. But again it’s the selection that I like so much. Each piece seems carefully selected. Thoughtful, even. Not the shot-in-the-dark maybe this will fly type.
This is the kind of vintage clothing that is actually doable. You know, she’s got some that are more risky. But for the most part, I think these are the clothing items you kept from your past that you actually aren’t embarrassed to say you owned. That kind of vintage.
In fact, the secret behind Hutch turns out to be Natalie Hutcheson. (Hutch is a nickname based on the family’s last name—another common Midwest trait).
A girl from the Midwest who dreamed of the big city, Natalie attended FIT in New York and earned her degree in Buying and Merchandising.
“It was the nineties, “ Hutcheson says, “There was a lot going on. It was a fun time. It was kind of like that ravey fashion was going on.”
After college, she moved to Chicago and continued to work in fashion, as a buyer for a Japanese company, where she got handed tons of money each day and told to go shop vintage. A dream job, really, but Natalie says something had to change.
“I worked in fashion. I was a buyer. So it’s kind of New York or LA. But I had done New York, so I thought, okay, LA,” she explains.
There was another very good reason for the move. Hutcheson admits, “Plus, it was winter in Chicago in January, and I was at the bus stop and I thought, okay that’s it. This is the last one. So I never looked back.”
17 years later, the now LA-based Hutcheson continued to work as a buyer. But she says, “I’ve always loved vintage, so I used to do that on the weekends on the side.”
She bought vintage wholesale and sold to shops. Then she was a seller early on with Ebay, when it was just beginning to take off. That market, she explains, became inundated.
“It was great, but as it got bigger and more competitive, they made it harder and harder. And they took a big percentage.” She says she paid Ebay over twice what she is paying for her rent at the store.
About three of four years ago, doing wholesale and earning about thirty percent, she got a booth at the Fairfax market, to see if she could make it. There, she earned a following at the market. She was also renting a van to help her set-up for the market.
“Really the switch came when I bought the van, so I had the ability to move all this furniture around, “ Natalie says.
“I started doing that out of my garage, basically,” she recalls and laughs.
Three years later, Hutcheson decided to take yet another business risk.
At a time when Ebay, Etsy, and online retail is at an all-time high, the always forward-
thinking Natalie decided to go old school and get a storefront.
It’s the years of experience and professional training that helps Natalie buy for the store, but she attributes her upbringing to her success.
“My heart goes to those things that I remember growing up with as a kid,“ Hutcheson explains. “So a lot of the stuff I have in here is kind of more Midwest and homey.”
Yet she says fate was her greatest motivation.
“The main influence was growing up one of six kids, and my mom was a single mom and a nurse.” the fashion buyer explains. “So out of necessity, we bought I would say ninety-five percent of everything we wore from thrift stores and vintage. Because it was an affordable way to have something cool that no one else was gonna have.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Living in a remote city in the Midwest, fashion back in the nineties wasn’t as readily available as it is today with the internet.
“You either drove to Chicago to go shopping, which I did, or you kind of made what you saw and you wanted to emulate. You had to go to the vintage stores and seek it out yourself and kind of put it together yourself, because there wasn’t a spot to do that,” recalls Hutcheson.
“You had to go take a road trip or kind of get an idea and make it yourself,” she laughs. Her family is at the heart of the business. Her mom Connie works there just about every day. Her sister Emily creates the handmade jewelry and artwork for the shop. Even her two brothers pitch in and help their big sister.
“Tom actually put up the store sign and helps build stuff. And my brother Andrew does all the store deliveries, lifts and moves heavy stuff and hung the store lights for me,” Natalie says. “It may be ‘my’ store, but there’s no way I could do it without my family’s help.”
Okay, so think David Letterman and Vince Vaughn. What do they have in common? Both Midwest born and bred. What do they have to do with Hutcheson?
According to Natalie, it’s not a huge pocketbook or even a love for all things precious and rare that are necessary to shop at Hutch. A sense of humor, however, is a plus.
“To me, the Midwest is more kitsch. It’s more tongue-in-cheek. I think you have to have a sense of humor to shop here and like my stuff. If you have a good sense of humor about it, that’s kind of like the connection,” explains the shop owner.
In addition to fashion, Hutch also sells housewares that are especially fun, if not hip.
“To me it’s just an extension of fashion. You have a certain style and you wear a certain thing, you’re not gonna shop at Levitz,” she laughs.
The set designers of MadMen came in and purchased several items for the show. A big compliment, according to the owner.
After a year and a half in business, Hutch is managing to keep its doors open—and of course have a lot of fun.
Natalie says she loves her location. The area around her is being renovated literally left and right. She feels it was luck that she landed at the far end of Sunset and within Echo Park.
She loves the neighborhood. If her brothers can’t help move larger furniture items, bouncers at neighboring bars always offer to help Natalie and her mom.
As much as she loves her roots and Midwest history, Natalie admits there’s still one major thing that keeps her here after all these years: The weather.
“When you’ve lived a winter in Chicago, then you come here, it’s like, you don’t go back, “ she teases. “It’s hard to have a bad day when the sun is shining and it’s seventy degrees. It’s easy to have a bad day when it’s twenty degrees and you have to scrape ice off your windshield. “
So if the weather is what’s kept her, it’s hard work and talent that’s made Natalie Hutcheson a success in one of the most competitive markets in LA.
But she says “luck” had nothing to do with that aspect of business.
“I did it the old-fashioned way,” she explains. “I did the flea markets and pounded the pavement for a few year and saved up the money to get the store. And eked it out month after month, and now we’ve been here a year and a half.”
The store gets between fifty and a hundred new items every week. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. But many weekend nights they stay open late and, in true Midwest style, the family will offer cocktails to their customers to thank them for shopping at Hutch and celebrate another great day.
Okay, so the last thing I promised my new BFF is that I’ll get one of those tabloid shots of an A-list actor or actress shopping in her store. She cracks up and seems to think it’s a great joke.
Now, if only I can make good on that promise…
Vince? Help a girl from the Midwest out?
But seriously, it’s another year over and my homesickness will thankfully subside.
Hutch is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so with Christmas this Wednesday, you’re out of luck. You’ll just have to wait to open this present until the day after Christmas, when all the best deals are found. Merry Christmas, Echo Park!
Hutch Vintage & Handmade Shop Details
1461 1/2 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026 (Echo Park)
Wed-Sun 12 pm – 8 pm
Photo Credits: Logo is used with the permission of Hutch Vintage and Handmade. All other pictures of the shop, Natalie Hutcheson, and Stiles are courtesy of Emily Hutcheson.
Writer Heather McTear, a local of Echo Park, is a vintage/thrift shop enthusiast. She welcomes us to appreciate the vintage scene in Echo Park. Previously, Heather featured Sunday’s Best, also on Sunset in Echo Park, and also introduced her series with this Kim Kardashian and Kate Hudson comparison.
To join a conversation about this topic, simply leave a comment below. The comments are an extension of our Echo Park Forums, and the thread that includes her previous publications.