THUNDER BAY -- Derrick and Marla Thompson were always the type of people who did whatever they felt like. They thought Derrick’s t-shirt ideas would be popular, so they opened Alram Apparel in 2017, selling t-shirts out of their home and at events such as Buskers Festival.
The following year in June, they opened Moon Money Vintage on Cumberland Street across from the Prince Arthor Hotel, because “why not?”
“Maybe a lot of people would be scared to take the plunge, but I’m not scared. If it failed and I didn’t sell any t-shirts, I’d just dust my hands off,” Derrick says. So far, he has been able to sell his t-shirts, as well as vintage/upcycled clothing and vinyl records. Business has been good.
“I was raised in a very business-oriented family; my grandfather owned a big bus line [in Wawa] and the bus company is still named after him, though he sold 20 years ago and retired. My mother owned a restaurant. I was raised in that mentality; you see an opportunity, you take it,” he explains.
“We’ve always done everything ourselves, not accepting help. Everything you see in here is 100 per cent from us,” he says with pride. He used to have a mohawk and wear a studded leather jacket, and both he and his wife are tattooed. Their appearance can be a little “off-putting” for some, he acknowledges, and it’s hard for them to get a business loan because they don’t look like a bank’s idea of what a successful entrepreneur should look like.
“We basically took out a credit card with a high interest loan, taking a cash advance on it to buy what we needed to buy. It’s 100% DIY, made by us, made by hand,” he says. “I built this counter. I’ve never built anything before in my life,” he gestures towards the solid counter made of reclaimed wood.
The Thompsons get most of their vintage clothing from a supplier in Toronto. Since most thrift stores get more clothing donations than they can sell, the surplus goes to recycling centres. Moon Money Vintage’s supplier buys used clothing by the truckload, sorts it, and sends whatever Derrick wants to Thunder Bay. Local people also bring in used clothing in exchange for store credit or some vinyl records. Everything is washed with unscented detergent before going on the racks.
Moon Money Vintage started carrying vinyl records a year ago when the new owner of New Day Records rented space in the Thompsons’ store to sell records. Soon after, he decided to get out of the business, and Derrick took it on. “Upcycled clothes and records go together really well. I have a guy who comes here religiously, and his daughters come here and shop too. They make it a weekly family event; they’ll get some clothes and buy some vinyl,” he says.
Now in their second year of business as Moon Money Vintage, Derrick thinks all the personal risks they took were worth it. He doesn’t have plans set in stone for the future; he prefers to wait for the right timing. “I think a lot of people look too far into the future and miss what’s right in front of them,” he says. “I take it day by day. I wait for the right opportunity to present itself to me, such as the store itself, or the records. I saw the opportunity and seized it and it played out well for me.”