Local vintage store gives new life to pre-loved clothing


Madi Bierl

Alma Vintage is a clothing shop located at 2540 Lincoln Way.

It is a crisp Saturday morning, and there are racks and racks of pre-loved clothing arranged not by gender or size but by aesthetic. Each piece has a history; a story to be told. This one could have been worn when someone met the love of their life, when a dream job was achieved or when a couple found out they would become parents.

Ashley Wood-Rivera, 35, is the owner of a new vintage store in Ames called Alma Vintage. The store opened its doors for the first time Nov. 26, 2022.

“Alma actually means soul; that’s why I called the store that because I’m choosing things that have a little more history or a story to them,” Wood-Rivera said. “At the same time, the individual or the wearer is who gives it that soul.”

Wood-Rivera graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a bachelor’s in apparel merchandising design and production. She worked in New York for a while before moving back and starting businesses here in Ames.

Her vintage clothing started as a small personal collection and grew enough that she could have small pop-up markets on Saturdays at the Daytime Diner. These pop-up shops were well received, so when a building was available on Lincoln Way, she upgraded it to an actual store that opened for the first time on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.

To stock up her inventory, Wood-Rivera travels to small towns away from Ames as well as places like Kansas City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska and occasionally New York.

“I love being able to share because it went further from just things that I would pick out for myself, to like a whole multitude of different styles and different ways that I could envision people wearing and styling different pieces,” Wood-Rivera said.

Simon Santiago-Bedigrew, a senior majoring in dietetics, heard about Alma Vintage from a friend who models for the shop. He went to the Alma Vintage pop-up shops every weekend and now visits the store every other week.

“There’s always new clothes coming in,” Santiago-Bedrigrew said. “Every time I go, there’s something new I’m like, ooh, that’s cool. I need that.”

A Valentine’s Day section of clothes at Alma Vintage. (Madi Bierl)

He said his interest in vintage had been piqued in the last year. He wants to be more sustainable in his clothing choices and wants to help break the habit of fast fashion.

He also recently modeled for Alma for the first time after having already modeled in the TREND fashion magazine at Iowa State. He said he had a lot of fun experimenting with different poses and styles for his outfits.

Avery Staker, a senior majoring in journalism and an intern at Alma Vintage, completes photoshoots with models and runs the shop’s social media, where many of these photoshoots are posted. They also recently got a Depop up and running to sell clothes online.

Staker said anyone could go out to places like Goodwill and search long and hard for pieces they are looking for, but it is a hit or miss. Staker said most people do not enjoy looking through everything for four hours, so Alma Vintage is the way to go.

“I have found that I enjoy buying secondhand more than anything else because I want to be more sustainable,” Staker said, “and because it’s vintage, and it’s here. It’s curated.”

Wood-Rivera said she wants to offer her space for private and public events, such as a sip and shop. She also wants to experiment with offering styling services after being encouraged by her models to do so.

Staker said when interacting with customers, they often say their friends told them about the store. Word of mouth through the student population has been making more and more people come to check out the store.

Although Ames has a large college population, Wood-Rivera said there is something for everyone.

“I have romantic styles; I have what I call my urban, classic, earthy [style] and then I also have a ton of basics,” Wood-Rivera said. “I also try really hard to also be really size inclusive.”

Both Wood-Rivera and Staker advise that anyone and everyone can find something at the store, including older people who may think the clothes are just for college kids.

“It’s vintage. It’s timeless. It’s here for a reason,” Staker said. “You would have been wearing this when you were a teenager, and it’s still here.”