Behind the Curtain

Why Rizzo’s, Why Now?

For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of my very own secondhand shop. From what I can recall, it all began in those tender years where a gal just got her first car, could taste a touch of freedom, and craved the wind in her hair. Instead of investing my miserly savings on new cassettes, I rushed home after school each afternoon, popped an empty tape into the boombox and anxiously awaited my favorite tunes while surfing the local radio stations. That feeling you get when you hear the first licks of a toe tapping ditty as you race against time to hit “record,” is a feeling I’m not soon to forget.

Rizzo's Vintage Boots and Shoes

In those early days I relished doing just about everything my own way (much to my parent’s chagrin), and it just never faded away. I know it didn’t start, or stop, with custom cassette playlists. Yet I know that what stoked the fire in my gut to curate my music is the same, unsaid, spark that enlivens my embers to be unapologetically myself.

So what’s a kid to do who’s trying to figure out who the heck they are, with abandon? Well I know what I did and that looked like a hell of a lot of ‘fashion statements.’ From Little Miss Sunshine to 90s grunge rock, sprinkled with periods of glitter, leather, and lace, I never held back, not once. Some have called me unique, others uncouth, and many “too much.” At the end of the day though, I’m not dressing for the proverbial ‘them,’ it’s about me, it always has been babe.

Rizzo's Vintage Clothing

Changing things up on the regular, while livin’ on a Pizza Hut waitress budget ain’t easy though. In fact I learned the value of a buck real quick tryin’ the whole fast fashion thing. Shopping high and low for that next expression of the many phases of ’me’ got me thinking that there’s gotta be a better way. How could I spread a dollar wider? How could I afford things that didn’t unravel at the seams after a couple wears? How could I look as unique and rare as I felt on the inside? At the onset of this questioning I had no idea what the answer would be, nor the lifelong journey it would take me on, but I knew these questions lit a fire under my ass and I was sure gonna bust it to find out.

Rizzo's Party - Behind the Curtain

I can’t say that my early teen self was entirely altruistic; I wasn’t exposed in my suburban community to the global environmental impact of textile waste and factory pollution, nor the abhorrent working conditions and lack of regulations in machine shops. I didn’t consider how I used my few dollars made an impact on the local and worldly economy. I couldn’t put two-and-two together in regard to the patriarchal and oppressive underbelly of the fashion industry and my own disordered eating & relationship to myself.

Yet I did get the importance of giving back, of being in and of my community in a way that wasn’t all about me. From a young age my parents instilled in me the importance of “being a productive member of society” (I’m still figuring out exactly what that means to me). In my early years I was a seeker of “helping,” “giving back,” and “serving” (probably from the seeds of white saviorism, but thankfully I know what that is now and actively work toward dismantling it within my participation in the world).

Sarah Silvas - Rizzo's Head Honcho

Nonetheless, my desire to connect with community in a meaningful way is part and parcel to the narrative of how we’ve gotten here, at Rizzo’s. Some of the folks that were in my high school circle were spending their weekends enlisting themselves as Habitat for Humanity amateur carpenters. While woodworking runs in my family, and I swoon for the smell of fresh cut wood, busting a sweat in the Rocky Mountain dry heat while struggling to hoist planks above my head was far from my alley. Yet, my old pal’s extracurriculars pointed me in a direction that would forever change my life. My investigations stumbled me upon the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store, tucked within an industrial park, surrounded by auto body shops and warehouses of various purposes. An unconventional location for an unconventional outlet.

From the moment I stepped in the shop, I was grinnin’ like a weasel in a hen house. Off the bat, I feel in love with the the musty smell of a vintage mink, the patchwork on well-worn Levi’s, the sound of a tiny scratch on a long lost LP. To tell the truth, these very picadillos of the goods and wares I came upon in my own hunts taught me that no matter the trials, broken vows, mistakes, and breaks, that life’s got a way of reviving you, making you better than new for the very reasons that you were down on your luck.Rizzo's at the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver

I knew my heart was at home among well loved antiquities that tell of fabled tales of times past, and that’s where I’ve been nestled been ever since. Way back when, a kernel of my future & spirit’s delight was sewn into the stitching of the lining of the fabric of my soul. In the years since I’ve refashioned that fabric into just about every expression of my truest me, livin’ on the prayer a jaunty preteen sent up as a wish to be unapologetically herself. The journey of it all has not only filled my closets (and yours!) but every inch of my marrow. The prudence of pillaging through barrels of forlorn fancies has taught me the merit of a well-earned buck, the splendor of individuality and autonomy, the liberation in discernment, and the joie de vivre of reputable comrades (couldn’t do it without my babes).

Yet this whole thing ain’t only about me. In fact, it’s grown bigger than a single chap as a testament to the integrity of reviving that which once was lost, now found, and loved all the more for it. This prized past time, and once a dream, now stands on the sturdy legs of tried-and-true community where your truest you is worn with pride on the inside, and out. I thought this baby started fantasy, yet now, as I pull back the curtain I see that it’s been a reality all along, deep in my heart and now in the world.

To you from me, PinkyLee.