BABE #254: TORI POOR - Owner, That Poor Girl Vintage
Tori is the one-woman show behind That Poor Girl Vintage — an eclectic and inviting Jacksonville-based brick-and-mortar shop providing unique, quality vintage clothing and goods. After inheriting a personal affinity and educated understanding of the industry through her family’s history in the antique business, Tori opened up PGV in 2012. With passion, grit and a whole lot of realness, she has since curated a space where shoppers can learn the value in repurposed fashion, reinvent their personal style and feel comfortable letting go of their past-loved items.
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: N/A
Very first job: Caribee Key, Neptune Beach
Hustle: Owner, That Poor Girl Vintage
Babe you admire and why?
My mother. She is kind and fierce. She has taught me to follow my heart and has been supportive of me even when my way was not hers. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t felt infinitely loved by her. I’m a third-generation collector and dealer. She passed that down to me. But even if I called her tomorrow and said I couldn’t any longer, she would ask me what’s next and support however she could. I love you, mom.
How do you spend your free time?
Giggling with my son, bike rides, cooking and hosting dinners, thrifting, snuggling my pups, brushing my hair, hanging with friends and family, sneaking into pools, making random installations, going to the movies, pretending my counter is a ballet bar, collecting jackets, finding new places to eat that aren’t expensive, learning stuff, fake online shopping, trying to keep my plants alive, shows and concerts, making jewelry and eating snacks. When I’m not at the shop I’m usually spending as much time with my partner and our son as possible. I try to keep work at home to a minimum so I can focus on family time. The shop feels like a second child (a baby, really) and it’s a constant balance I’m trying to maintain.
Favorite fictional female character?
Matilda, when I was younger, for sure. She always did the right thing and was such a badass. I remember I used to stare at objects around the house trying to move them. I’m dying laughing right now thinking about this one time my mom caught me in the kitchen trying to move the bread. Also, I can’t forget about Xena Warrior Princess and Tank Girl.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
This question is a nightmare. I’m having anxiety just thinking about it. I love food so much. I’d have to say right now I’m craving shakshuka over coconut rice, a pickled veggie plate, fried cauliflower, mounds of tacos and the potato pizza from this place in Seattle I can’t ever remember the name of. I have a skin allergy to gluten and am super dairy sensitive, but if you asked me this question in my teens when I didn’t know or care about that, then I would have said cast iron pizza with a side of Mac ‘n cheese and a huge cinnamon bun. Chips and queso. And a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. Maybe some broccoli, too, so I felt OK with all that.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Arlo Guthrie, hands down. Cher comes in a close second but she doesn’t even drink coffee.
What’s something most don’t know about you?
That I’m a mother. It weirdly surprises people. I assume because the shop looks like Pee Wee's Playhouse and I’m just frolicking in it blasting Spice Girls and playing dress-up. People are generally confused when I tell them I’m 29. I never know whether to be offended or delighted. Either way I have the greatest gift, my son Lux. He’s the coolest.
Tell us about your hustle.
My job is to keep my shop, That Poor Girl Vintage, alive; to teach others the importance of repurposing clothing and how vintage is relevant in everyday fashion; to help people find their personal style; to create and provide a safe and brave space for people who are still finding themselves; and last but not at all least, to be available as much as possible for those seeking to purge their vintage and pre-loved clothing. I have learned the most while out in the field. Making house calls and walking through estates learning the (sometimes very intimate) stories of where these pieces come from. This is a very important role I take on and it’s made me who I am and the shop what it is. The rest of the job description is all boring numbers and business stuff I just figure out as it comes along. I never planned for this, you know.
What does your typical workday look like?
I try to stay as consistent as possible, but I’m basically always on call. I could be on my way to the shop five minutes until open, and if Francis calls me out in Palm Coast with a closet from the 60s, I am gone. Outta here. And the rest is history. With that being said, a “typical” work day is dropping off my son to school, going back home to eat breakfast and make coffee (or, if I’m ignoring my bank account, I like to catch up with friends for coffee and breakfast out somewhere), go to the bank/post office if needed. If buying appointments aren’t urgent then I like to schedule them sometime around here (8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.), open the shop by noon and from then on, who the hell knows? All I know is, there isn’t enough time in the day. Once 5:00 p.m. hits, I make it a point to go home and spend time with my family. Thursdays I do try and zoom over to my booth at 5 Points Vintage and restock, but I’ve been making an effort to start doing that in the mornings, too. If you see a sign on my door that says “back at 3:15,” it means I couldn’t find pick-up for my son from school and I’m in a carpool line, hoping no one is there to notice.
What inspired That Poor Girl Vintage?
I think the first quote I made for Poor Girl Vintage (PGV) on Google was “For the love of sharing vintage,” and it’s still true. I never really enjoyed the sale as much as the find or seeing the smile of who finds it from me. When I look back into my Instagrams of the past, I tear up. It’s bittersweet seeing the pieces go; if I could, I would just let everyone borrow them. The inspo for PGV is always changing. In the beginning, it was just my Aunt Linda and I collecting vintage for the thrill. My mom and stepdad are long-time antique dealers/collectors who also own an estate sale company, so getting into the business was natural. They actually opened up a huge consignment store in Regency Mall and offered us a vendor space. That’s how it all started. The evolution has been very obvious as far as space goes, but I’m still figuring out what works and how to keep vintage relevant. It’s far from figured out.
What draws you to vintage goods?
Just knowing something so beautiful can make it through our harsh world today means someone loved it enough to save it. It also means things were made with way better quality back in the day. Mall stuff these days is basically disposable. I love learning the history from pieces and giving them life again. PGV was created in 2012, but the love has always been there.
What’s your approach to balancing the demands of running the day-to-day shop operations alongside managing social media accounts, purchasing items and organizing events?
These things don’t come easy to me. I have to try really really hard to balance them out. I think maintaining social media takes a lot out of me. I know it’s the most important these days, so I try and stay relevant. I’m so conscious of my phone and computer use though, and I have a guilty feeling about it if I’ve been on too long. I don’t want my son to see me attached to electronics. My approach is to get what I can done before 5:00 p.m. and then shut it down. Whatever the priority is for that day, I try to get it done. The rest is so random that I have to roll with it. Purchasing is easy—if I have money to buy, then I will. Photoshoots happen when we’re inspired and they’re always my favorite days. Events are hard because they do take a lot of energy from the shop. When I plan one, it’s usually with a partner so I’m not taking on everything alone. My usual partner in crime is Ashley Olberding (the babeliest of babes). She deserves a special place in all of this. My favorite events have been with her, and there’s always a wonderful purpose behind them.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
I graduated high school and never went to college. I started working in the service industry at 15. That obviously helped with my social skills. I worked my parents’ estate sales since I can remember. I think I would be having an easier “business experience” if I had gone to college, but I don’t know if I would trade what I have learned by not going, either. I got thrown to the wolves, and it taught me a lot about intuition and trust. About fear and risk. About support and friendship. I never wanted to be just another shop, so I think the way I’ve gone about my business has been [helpful] to its growth. I’m also still poor so, hey. All in the eye of the beholder.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Last year these 11th graders wanted to put me and the shop in their documentary. It hasn’t come out yet, but just knowing they thought I was influential enough to put in their series really got me emotional. It made me realize my purpose in all this craziness. It’s what has been pushing me to morph more into a creative space than just retail.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I think when we see our friends starting to build on their dreams and passions, we need to fully support them. It spreads like wildfire, and collaborations are always important. We need to show how much we love and support each other; not just online, but also by showing up in person. It starts in your small circle and is contagious. I know we don’t all have time to go to every single event, but spreading the word helps too. When I can’t make it to something or have the money to buy a product, I tell a specific friend about it who I think would enjoy it. I think my industry is kind of niche right now and I’m not really sure where I fall. I’ve made a space where I feel free to create. If someone comes into the shop to try and negatively impact my space, they’re usually beat by the carefree vibe. I’ve only kicked out two people; they were middle-aged, homophobic, racist white women. One male neighbor tried to intimidate me when I first moved to my newest space. He called me “little girl” and said, “Where are your parents?” He tried to make me think I was doing a silly thing. I dealt with that a lot in the past in the service industry. Power-tripping managers or owners doing the most and attempting to throw water on the fire of any younger woman. I crawled through a lot of thorny bushes to get where I am today. For some entitled man to walk in my space and try and pull something—not anymore, buddy. I think it’s important to tell our stories like this so we can show other young women they’re not alone. You can spit fire right back.
What’s something everyone should know about the vintage shopping experience?
These items are old and fragile. You can’t come in like a hurricane batting it around and trying it on over your clothes. Come on, y’all. Also, you don’t know until you do try it on. The sizes and styles are different now than they used to be. If you’re new to vintage, please ask all the questions you want. Vintage collectors usually love talking vintage. Let us help you find what you didn’t know you needed. Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe is a modern day size two to four. Back then, she was a 12 to 16. Let that sink in for a second. They definitely changed the sizing chart on us.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
Rosaly Natera: We have a very similar and scary love for collecting strange things. I love watching her work on her art, and sometimes I feel like she’s my imaginary friend come to life. Sarah Stansel: I love her style and her eye for vintage. She’s constantly inspiring me through her finds; if you’re in the shop, you can even try some on. Melissa Busnot: A great friend of my parents (and mine), she has always found the coolest pieces and has amazing knowledge. I run into her a lot when we both have a thrifting buzz and it’s like an episode of “what’s in your cart.” She’s given me some pieces I really treasure and has the best style herself. I appreciate you. Trinity Baker, aka Madame Regency Deluxe: Mother of all magic. She has always inspired me to come out of my shell and put a little extra glitter on my face and hair spray in my hair. Oh, and wear a damn cape while doing it.
What are your favorite places to shop when you’re not at That Poor Girl?
For clothes, I’m always combing through thrift stores and hitting up estate sales. I like to go online and fill up my cart with things I dream about owning. Right now I drool over Penelope Gazin’s Fashion Brand Company and anything Discount Universe. Target is a literal guilty pleasure. I’m not sure I fully enjoy buying new clothing anymore, since getting into the business of vintage. There’s so much out there to be repurposed or that has plenty of life left.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Never stop learning and changing. Stay open-minded and ask all the questions. You’ll be teaching someone else one day, and it’s important to listen to each other. Don’t apologize for how you express your creativity and be respectful of the way others do the same. If we were all the same, this world would be super-boring. Also, please take care of yourselves emotionally and physically. It’s so important. Ask for help. Help others when you can. Eat your veggies. Moisturize. Cry lots. Laugh more.
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