Transforming a mother’s wedding gown into a wedding rehearsal ensemble for a bride or repurposing a piece of clothing into something new is a task Jessica Netzler enjoys and is skilled at doing.
Now, she plans to take that ability of transforming something beloved and giving it a new life and apply it to a business venture. Caren Bricker, better known to most Augustans as “Ooollee,” plans to retire and sell Vintage Ooollee at 1121 Broad St. to Netzler.
“It was important to me that it be somebody young with a new youthful input, with different ideas. It was important that it be somebody who knew the business and loved it. I knew she could do that and nurture it,” Ooollee said.
Her recent retirement announcement may have come as a shock to many, but Ooollee said it’s been her plan for several years. It’s all coming together just as it should.
The owner of Vintage Ooollee, the combination vintage clothing boutique and costume shop, first spotted her potential successor a decade ago. Netzler will keep the costume shop, but add alterations and other custom-made clothing options under a new brand — Ensemble Sewing and Costumes — at the same location.
Netzler was 18 when she first reached out to Ooollee.
“I had gone to see a Peter Pan Ballet in North Carolina, and I commented on the costumes to my mom,” said Netzler, who has always enjoyed sewing and fashion.
Her mother then mentioned that Augusta had a costume shop, and within a few days of the ballet performance, Netzler called Ooollee.
“I remember saying ‘do you take volunteers or anything?’, she said to which Ooollee responded “You mean like an intern?”
She spent that first summer interning at Vintage Ooollee and later worked part time. She’s most recently worked at Sew Co.
About five years ago, Netzler took a shopping trip to Vintage Ooollee when Ooollee casually announced that she planned to retire in about five or six years and would be selling the shop.
“I couldn’t get it out of my mind,” Netzler said. “I always loved this store. It’s special to me.”
Not long after that, the two had breakfast together, and Netzler laid out her plans. She thought maybe she could run it for Ooollee, because at the time, the idea of buying the business seemed out of reach.
“It’s crazy because I’m about to see it fulfilled,” she said.
Ooollee has owned Vintage Ooollee for 15 years and felt like she was a steward for another beloved Augusta institution – Fat Man’s Forest and its costume shop. Their costumes were part of her original inventory.
“I could see a real need for a costume shop in Augusta. There’s so much theater here,” she said. “High schools, churches. Halloween is huge; Christmas is huge, and across the country, so many shops are shutting down.”
She’s also worked with the many community theater organizations – Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre, Storyland Theatre, Le Chat Noir among others.
“I’ve been honored to carry that torch and pass it along to Jessi. Their costume shop had been there 50-60 years,” she said.
The Fat Man’s costumes were made to stand the test of time and quick changes by actors in dark, cramped theater wings. Many were made out of rugged and sturdy upholstery fabric. Over the years, they’ve been updated, upgraded and overhauled. New costumes have been designed and sewn – something that Netzler has a knack for, Ooollee said.
Ooollee said she’s loved being part of special events such as the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s annual Wet Paint party, where she’s brought in costumes to go along with the theme, and the annual Beats on Broad during Pride.
With plans to shut down June 30, Ooollee couldn’t do this year’s Beats on Broad spectacular, but will still be part of the Augusta Pride festivities. She’s been selected as this year’s parade grand marshal.
The remaining vintage pieces will be sold through an online auction. That side of the business has already closed to customers. Some items were sold to other vintage stores, while others are on a half price rack on the costume side. She doesn’t have a timeline for the auction because the items are in the process of being cataloged and photographed.
The vintage side of the house will be used for the sewing operations.
The transition should come around August, and Ooollee plans to help Netzler during the transition, even offering to work part time to do the laundry – a tedious but necessary job in the costume world.
After she retires, Ooollee plans to spend more time with family members she rarely has a chance to see.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at email@example.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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