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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

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In Marketplace

The original Yellow Jacket opened in Milwaukee in 1996.

In Marketplace

The Chicago Yellow Jacket opened three years ago.

In Marketplace

Yellow Jacket is the premier Halloween destination, hands down.

In Marketplace

The Raus received a facade grant for the front of their new building.

Yellow Jacket finds more fashion passion on Brady Street


Yellow Jacket is not a thrift store. It is a vintage clothing store, and yes, there is a big difference. Here you will not find a rack of grubby Packers sweatshirts that everyone ditched when the team started trudging downhill, nor will you have to scour through endless "No Fear" T-shirts to find that the perfect vintage AC/DC three-quarter length has a nasty and unidentifiable stain down the front.

This quaint yet qualified clothing store specializes in only the greatest gems of the '60s, '70s and '80s and co-owner Jennifer Rau is adamant about the distinction.

"Thrift stores take donations, we do not. We don't buy any clothing from the public, ever," she says. "I do all my own shopping. I spend five days a week thrifting and I love it. I've been doing it forever and I've got an eye for it."

Yellow Jacket is a boutique bursting with vintage vigilance, where every single item has been hand selected by Rau, professional thrifter and passionate fashion hound. She washes every item, does minor mending and hemming when necessary, rendering perfect every item for sale in her shop.

"If it's not perfect when I find it, I'll make it perfect before it goes into my store," Rau says, as motto of sorts. "That's what sets us apart from other vintage clothing stores; we're selling fashion -- and cheaply!"

The store has thrived for the past 10 years on the southeastern edge of Riverwest, but after one last Halloween hurrah on Humboldt this year, the vintage clothing store is moving to a more fitting locale: 1237 E. Brady St. The new location will be open for business Nov. 1.

"We're taking a residentially zoned historical building and changing the lower half to a commercially zoned retail space. The upper half we're going to rent out," says Rau.

Inside the historical Victorian house next to Bella's Fat Cat, the new and improved Yellow Jacket is taking shape, thanks to co-owner Todd Rau (Jennifer's husband) and store manager John Lyman. A sneak peak into the space reveals more room to work with and the interior plans the Raus and Lyman have conjured -- including four dressing rooms, three large display cases from the '30s and vintage theater seats -- promise to give the store a more comfortable boutique feel than it had previously on Humboldt.

For a store priding itself on selling strictly vintage items -- with the exception of wigs for Halloween and sunglasses, because, apparently, "you just cannot thrift enough sunglasses to keep up with the masses" -- what better building to house it than one built in 1893?

"We've completely gutted the place, but we've tried to preserve as much of its historic value as possible," says Todd. "The moldings and most of the hard wood floors are original."

The new Yellow Jacket building will also remain committed to the time period during which it was constructed by boasting an "1893 yellow" on the exterior, which translates to a bright sunshine yellow, as opposed to an '80s pastel, says Lyman.

Inside, Rau has plans to incorporate vintage items other than clothing and accessories. Soon vintage lovers can find a small yet savy collection of items such as dishware, lamps, small household items and all those preciously perfect kitschy knickknacks you always try to yoink from grandma's house.

The owners have a grand opening party in the works for mid-November. Get ready to officially welcome Yellow Jacket to the East Side.


Talkbacks

OMCreader | Sept. 15, 2006 at 10:56 a.m. (report)

Cathy b said: congratulations, jennifer! if you ever need any more mad planet models, count me in!

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OMCreader | Sept. 14, 2006 at 7:07 p.m. (report)

the Fat Cat said: Jennifer and Todd Welcome neighbors, thank you for restoring the building and years of continued success.

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OMCreader | Sept. 14, 2006 at 11:38 a.m. (report)

deanna said: so excited - I love yellow jacket and think this will be a great location - Looking forward to the new additions. Congrats!

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