Alex & Afton bringing vintage cool to Tyler

Published on Sunday, 15 December 2013 17:35 - Written by ADAM RUSSELL

Tucked just off Old Bullard Road, amid tall pine trees south of Rice Road, vintage boutique Alex & Afton Vintedge offers California cool with a homegrown spin.

Mother and daughter co-owners Lori Cook and Caitlin Brackeen are self-described estate sale-thrift shop junkies with an eye on vintage items for the home and to wear out on the town. Their picking and hoarding habits are their customers’ good fortune.

Alex & Afton (the middle names of Miss Brackeen and her younger sister) features vintage clothing for men and women from the 1950s through the 1990s. The boutique carries a varied selection of quality vintage pieces including casual and formal, funky and rock star.

“A lot of people don’t think they can pull off vintage, but it’s so easy to incorporate it with modern clothing,” Miss Brackeen said.

The store also features home furnishings and knick-knacks from classic playing cards to an art deco brass globe cigarette dispenser.

Miss Brackeen, 29, spent seven years in Los Angeles after graduating at Robert E. Lee. She left for school feeling her Bohemian style didn’t fit in Tyler. The move helped her foster her unique personal style and introduced her to work in retail.

For five years, Miss Brackeen worked in a high-end women’s boutique where she honed her skills in sales, managing a business and as a stylist.

Miss Brackeen said the duo was reticent to open a shop here, but Tyler is not the same city she left.

Alex & Afton opened Nov. 1, and Mrs. Cook said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. After stints in Denton and Mineola, Alex & Afton has found its most successful location in their hometown, she said.

“We tip-toed back in to Tyler,” Mrs. Cook said. “For so long, it seemed like there was nothing here, but it’s really growing in different ways. It’s maintained its small town feel but doesn’t have a lot of the big city problems.”

The duo visits estate sales around East Texas and has built relationships with fellow vintage collectors and vendors from California to Texas to keep the shop stocked.

“It’s one big family in the thrift and vintage business,” Mrs. Cook said. “We all share secrets and buy, sell and trade to keep the shop full.”

Alex & Afton is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or by private appointment.

Selections of the boutique’s collection also can be found on Etsy and online vintage clothing co-op Wiseling. Alex & Afton has been featured in InStyle magazine’s “Best of Digi” edition, which focuses on designer/stylist websites.

Caitlin said providing one-on-one customer service is the top priority and that Alex & Afton will seek out specific-to-similar items to fill client wish lists and for prices that beat Dallas and Austin vintage shops.

“It’s off the beaten path, but we have repeat customers we adore and the response so far has been amazing,” she said. “We try to make it relaxing and homey. We joke about it being a great place for ‘retail therapy.’”

Alex & Afton is at 5304 Old Bullard Road and can be contacted at 903-574-3906.