Turkeys and Walking Canes
What do garden gnome shaped candles, alligator skin shoes, elegant fur coats, handcrafted ceramic vases, and piles of vintage clothing all have in common? Well, apart from sounding like the props for an upcoming Macklemore music video, they’re all sold at Queen Bee Vintage.
As the owner, Jennifer Shirk put it, shopping for vintage clothing at this shop is an experience, just as it should be.
There’s a lot that plays into that “experience,” most obviously the vastness of the collection that shoppers get to sort through. There’s treasure set on pedestals, under shelves, and stuffed in every nook and cranny available. There’s even a giant taxidermied turkey hanging in the entrance to greet you.
Queen Bee is the Old Northside’s one and only vintage clothing store and Jennifer was one of the first retailers to move into the 100 block of East 16th Street in 1999. Originally, she opened a store called Minx Vintage and Home in the same location, but after a year and a half, she left the reins in the hands of her co-owner in order to pursue other interests. However, when Minx closed last fall, Jennifer picked up the old spot to start Queen Bee.
Jennifer studied retail at Indiana University, but the anthropological element that comes with running a small business is a large part of why she likes Queen Bee. To her, clothing can be an extension of who a person is, so as long as you have to wear something, (as far as the law goes) you may as well make it a choice worth making.
“I wanted to know why people were buying things,” Jennifer said, “I would buy things, but they wouldn’t work for me. Wrong size here, wrong style there, so it became a collection of things that somebody had to have.”
Queen Bee is constantly restocking from the warehouse Jennifer has stocked over the years with shopping sprees at regional auctions, estate sales, and any other source she could track down something that piqued her interest. As is, the store is overflowing with its myriad of items. Making a statement isn’t too hard when you’ve got a warehouse of hand-picked supplies to choose from.
All you have to do is ferret it out. Or trip over it, like I did with a walking cane that had a golden jaguar affixed to the top.
Unfortunately, Queen Bee is phasing out their selection of men’s clothing (which means it’s all currently 50% off) but the store space is going to be replaced in the near future with a huge array of vintage household items. Eventually, Jennifer hopes to split the store’s contents equally between objects and clothes, making it an all-encompassing, vintage lifestyle shop, rather than just a clothing shop.
What I’m finding is that this neighborhood is nothing if it’s not eclectic. Indianapolis is big enough that you can do pretty much anything and someone is going to want to buy it or be a part of it. People like Jennifer invest in their community in unique ways by building on their own interest, and in her case, riding shopping spree after shopping spree to dress as much of the city as possible.
So step into Queen Bee next time you’re on 16th Street and drop the mindset that anyone has to tell you who to be or what to wear. Jennifer will be more than happy to work with you to find something to strut around in or to showcase at your next house party.
You might even be able to pick up a fine example of taxidermy if you’re lucky.