‘Old is new again’: Heinz History Center hosts ninth annual Vintage PGH retro fair


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Items on display at Vintage Pittsburgh in 2022.

By Jiya Narwal, Staff Writer

Thousands of shoppers crowded the Heinz History Center to explore five floors of local vendors selling clothes, accessories, antiques and kitchenware at Vintage Pittsburgh retro fair on Saturday. 

More than 40 vendors participated in the ninth annual Vintage Pittsburgh retro fair, including Gallery 304, Twisted Vintage and Kula Vintage. Brady Smith, director of marketing and communications at the Heinz History Center, said Vintage Pittsburgh is one of the most popular programs that the museum hosts. 

Smith said the Heinz History Center is working to make the program bigger and better each year. 

“We typically draw around 2,500 people to the museum, and that makes it one of our highest attended events each year,” Smith said.

Smith recognizes that vintage shopping has become more popular in Pittsburgh over the past few years, saying that “what’s old is new again.”

“We recognize this was a trend, and we’ve started this event and it’s been built up over time, and I think the best part is that it’s an event where people can come in and they can shop for their vintage wares, whether it’s vinyl or kitchenware and, of course, dresses and clothing,” Smith said. 

Smith said Neighborhood Flea, one of Pittsburgh’s open-air flea markets, was a helpful partner in recruiting the vintage vendors that participated in the fair. 

“We host this event in partnership with the Neighborhood Flea, and they help us curate the vintage vendors that you will see here today, throughout the building,” Smith said.

One regular shopper, Rachel Carson, said Vintage Pittsburgh offers one-of-a-kind clothing which allowed her to cultivate her style over time. 

“Once you buy one thing, that’s the start. Because then you’ll get more comfortable with how the fits are, what the things you like are, what you’re drawn to,” Carson said. “I think you don’t have to stick to a specific style.” 

Carson said her style is heavily inspired from the ‘50s, ‘60s and other old-fashioned styles. She said Vintage Pittsburgh has offered a wide range of clothing that fit her taste. 

“I’ve been shopping at a thrift store since high school. I wore old man plaid pants, but my first vintage dress was a dress that was in the 1950s, ‘60s style and I loved that style from ModCloth, a contemporary clothing company. Buying that dress kind of kicked me off into a vintage adventure,” Carson said. “I always say and I really just love being able to shop old styles and know that they’re one-of-a-kind.” 

Carson said shoppers should arrive early to the venue and know their measurements for clothes beforehand to maximize their shopping experience. 

“My hot tip is to come as soon as it opens,” Carson said. “Come ready to shop with a tape measure if you’re specifically looking for clothes, because that’s going to help guide you in terms of your measurements, because that’s going to help you with the clothes.”

Carrie Nardini started the Neighborhood Flea in 2014, which is a mixture of vintage items, handmade products, food vendors and small local services that takes place on the second Sunday of May through October in the Strip District.

“The History Center approached us several years ago,” Nardini said. “It’s a good mixture of different types of vendors, and everybody is a small local business. And this is a really wonderful partnership because we love working with the History Center.” 

Nardini said Vintage Pittsburgh offers local businesses the opportunity to boost their connections with the local community. 

“But the goal of Neighborhood Flea is to provide a venue for the small businesses to interact with customers to meet other vendors and we cultivate a community around it,” Nardini said. “So we really do try to connect people and to give them a good experience and to really organize it super well to do the best job we can and organize so that people have a smooth experience.”

Nardini’s main goal with Vintage Pittsburgh is to impact people and help them grow their businesses, she said. 

“We really enjoy working with people that are just getting started and helping to hold their hand, and get them started with vending and working their business and getting a handle on how to do that, because some people are a little bit overwhelmed by or intimidated by, you know, how do I really get started with that,” Nardini said.