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  • Writer's pictureSelima Smith-Dell

Best Thrift Shop in Rochester, NY: The Op Shop and It's Iconic Creator

I am so excited to highlight the amazing Op Shop and it’s fabulous founder Joanna. I miss my squad of amazing, creative, fashion forward women in Rochester, New York.

So the layout for today’s post is a quick introduction to the Op Shop followed by brief descriptions of the looks you see and then finally a brief interview with the amazing Joanna, creator of The Op Shop. Hope you all enjoy.

I am so impressed by how much The Op Shop has grown and expanded since I first visited a few years ago to shoot with Olivia Rose Edvalson. I remember getting off a bus from NYC to Rochester and stopping by with Olivia immediately to pick up pieces to shoot. I was impressed that we were able to easily assemble over ten looks to shoot. There were vintage pieces and modern pieces. The options were endless and there was so much in my size. There was a delicate changing room and everyone at the shop was so helpful.

The following year I did my yearly trip to shoot with my favorite photographer Olivia and the Op Shop had expanded. The shop was more inclusive. Pieces of all sizes, accessories, jewelry, men’s clothing, shoes etc. We created additional looks to shoot this time along with art curator, fashion connoisseur, model, and brilliant mind Kendall. The options seemed endless the first year but now they truly were. And to hear now they have not just one floor but the whole building just blows mind. As you know I’m a sustainable fashion girl, slow fashion advocate and thrifting queen so The Op shop is truly part of my wildest dreams. More on The Op Shop from the creator to come.

On to what you all want to know more about. The outfits! I know you all came here to hear about the pieces we are wearing in these two looks. In the first look I am wearing a Periwinkle mini strapless dress from vendor Lauren Elizabeth of Ltracks. The peach soft mini you see Kendall wearing is from her personal collection. You can find more of her pieces at Earthly Delights Vintage. The second looks are both from Lauren of Ltracks. We played with mixing and matching as you can see for this shoot so our looks compliment one another.

We shot the pearly look on Cobb Hill Monument. Kendall’s dress was a beautiful pearly white with small pearl details adorning the dress. Doesn’t the dress look so darling on her with her icy white stunning bob? She’s really giving me old Hollywood glamour in this look. In fact I felt like Dorothy Dandridge in this shoot and she reminded me so much of Marilyn Monroe. My Dress was a similar silky material to Kendall’s and a beautiful pearly blue color. To compliment her pearl dress I wore a thicker pearl necklace and lace up booties. She complimented my blue dress with her blue delicate flats. The first look screams Screen Queens to me. From the fur slides from Uggs to the strapless flower adorned dress I felt myself channeling Chanel #1. What do you think about the looks. We had so much fun shooting on a grassy hill with cellophane on a mildly cold dinner day.

Now for the fun part. Here is a short interview with Joanna the creator of The Op Shop.

SELIMA: What birthed the idea of the Op Shop? Where did the name come from.

JOANNA: The idea came out of a personal want, more-so need if I were to be dramatic. I was in need of a place to showcase a multitude of interests and soft skills of mine while most importantly developing connections with like-minded people who were looking for the same form of self-expression.

I love curating, styling, scouring for vintage, photographing and modeling. The social aspect that came with my love for vintage was fostered by my older sister, Justine. In middle school, I would help her find vintage in thrift stores and model them for her to then post on eBay. As I grew older, I had my own eye for vintage, picking out different eras and styles that my sister didn’t agree with and we’d laugh about it. That bond over fashion and clothes was missing once I grew up. I went to college and started selling vintage online. I moved out of my hometown my Sophomore year of college with my parents to Rochester, NY and spent my summers alone, photographing vintage. It was hard to do solo, self-timers and stiff mannequins became exhausting and frustrating. The photographs never seemed right. Ever since my sister I had an inclination to find, buy and sell vintage but the most fun part was sharing those finds with people that appreciated it.

Two and a half years into living independently in Rochester I still didn’t find a social circle. Friends came and went, moving to NYC or LA or Philly as I stayed back with a cushy 9-to-5 that was also soul-sucking. You don’t know real daydreaming until you have a desk job, working 40 hours a week. The Op Shop came about from a combination of creative and community needs. The Op Shop name came from a church thrift shop in the town Alfred, NY where I went to college. Every Tuesday I would go and find vintage gems. I also thought the name, short for Opportunity, made sense for a co-op and pop up space (rhymes too!).

SELIMA: How did you turn your vision of The Op Shop into a reality? How has it evolved since you first opened?

JOANNA: The vision did not come about until I was the vacant space. It was the 2nd floor of a house built in 1901. The tin ceilings and chandelier in back room sparked the idea of showcasing my vintage pieces here. My boyfriend’s childhood friend, Brittany, had a soft opening/birthday celebration with close friends at the house. She was renting it to start her own hairdressing business, which is now The Factory Hairdressing. Seeing the space, seeing my friend just up and do something big like rent her own brick and mortar, and hear her say she was looking for someone to sublease the upstairs and thinking retail, it just felt like my “calling”. Sounds corny, but really the timing was eerily right. Flash forward almost two years later, I have now acquired the whole house, I have over 14 vendors who are popped up, including all three of my sisters, who majority have never sold vintage before. We have monthly gatherings facilitated by one of our vendors, we have every quarter a themed party to celebrate our quarterly magazine releases, and have developed a clothing rental relationship with RIT students, walked in fashion week and an annual Clothing Swap in collaboration with a zero-waste local company called Impact Earth.

SELIMA: What should people know about The Op Shop before going in for a shopping spree? What vendors do you have at the shop now?

JOANNA: Each rack is a different vendor so the styles, sizes and eras are scattered. Each rack has a unique feel to it and so if you come often enough you’ll start to find yourself drawn to the same racks over and over. Racks are restocked on a bi-weekly basis and each month we have new pop ups so it is worth checking out at least once a month. We have 14 vendors all of which have a social media presence of their own and the list is always on our front page website at: We have two vendors that source mens/unisex clothing, two jewelry vendors, 1 handmade vendor and the rest mostly women's vintage.

Here are some beautiful photos of the woman herself, Joanna.

Thanks for stopping by.

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