Clothes on wheels: Fashion trucks take Pittsburgh


By Elizabeth Rakow / For The Pitt News

We’ve all heard of — and most likely eaten from — the food trucks that pop up around Pittsburgh. These trucks have all the benefits of owning a business with the convenience of traveling directly to the customer.

It’s a popular concept — they pull up, serve customers and relocate. In fact, it’s become so prevalent that the idea has moved beyond the realm of food and into fashion. Now, fashion connoisseurs and avid shoppers alike can enjoy the convenience of fashion trucks in multiple locations.

Fashion trucks began as a trend in California approximately four years ago. Mobile fashion stores came to Pittsburgh early last year. As boutiques on wheels, these trucks park in places like the Strip District or Market Square and open up like a regular store, inviting guests to shop and explore the unique style options from fashion-savvy truck owners. 

Marissa Zimmerman, owner and operator of 1-year-old fashion truck The Vintage Valet, says that the sight of a store on wheels catches some people off guard.

“A lot of people walk up and are hesitant, but I say, ‘yes — it’s a store on wheels. Come in,’” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman thinks that fashion trucks are becoming more popular throughout Pittsburgh, and she expects the trend to become even more widespread in coming years.

She came up with the idea for The Vintage Valet while she was enrolled as a student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. 

“I can travel to the people, come to different events, get a feel for the different markets and areas,” Zimmerman said of her vintage-inspired truck. “I’d really love to change the way that people view retail.” 

For this truck owner, the portable shops are about creating a new space for shoppers to find inspiring pieces of clothing and jewelry. Zimmerman buys clothing from merchandisers, but her jewelry is self-made — she sometimes gathers items from thrift stores to mesh into jewelry. She sets the truck up at various local events, including the Oakland Forever festival and an upcoming Ladies Night Out at the Willow Room in Belle Vernon, along with regular appearances in Market Square.

“For me, it’s about bridging the gap between a brick-and-mortar store and an online shop. This is just something totally different and people really seem to respond to it,” Zimmerman said.

Alex McNulty, a junior Psychology major, had her first shopping experience at a fashion truck during this month’s Oakland Forever festival, where Zimmerman’s truck and several others were open for business.

“They’re a bit intimidating to walk into at first because you don’t know what to expect,” McNulty said of the truck. She browsed The Vintage Valet and found, much to her surprise, that it was very similar to shopping in a store.

“I was surprised how much the truck really felt like a boutique,” she said. “The clothing wasn’t that different from what you’d find in a normal store, but there were only a few of each item, so it felt like every piece was very unique.”

The Vintage Valet is just one of several fashion trucks that have debuted in Pittsburgh. 

Samantha Lugo’s Broke Little Rich Girl is another fast-growing fashion truck to make a splash on the Pittsburgh scene. Much like Zimmerman, she also purchases all of her clothing from merchandisers before hitting the road. Lugo opened up her truck just over a year ago and has since expanded to a permanent location in Lawrenceville as well. Lugo also sets up in Market Square and attends both private and public events around Pittsburgh, and she had a spot at Oakland Forever.

“The truck was first. I absolutely love it, and it gave me a great idea of whether or not women like my taste and style,” Lugo said.

Lugo takes a different approach than Zimmerman, looking to sell a contemporary, on-trend collection of dresses, bottoms and tops as opposed to vintage-inspired pieces.

“I sell very trendy and contemporary pieces,” Lugo said. “I do a lot of research and try to find out what the trends will be before they’ve hit other stores, and that drives my merchandise selections.”

Broke Little Rich Girl’s permanent store is located at 3816 Butler St. Lugo also runs a Twitter account for Broke Little Rich Girl, which makes it easy to see where her truck will be next. The Vintage Valet and Broke Little Rich Girl both have websites and Facebook pages featuring a list of their upcoming locations.

As these specialty shops on wheels make their way through Pittsburgh, shoppers are given the chance to step up to the trucks and give this exciting new retail opportunity a try.

“It’s a really unique and intimate shopping experience,” says Lugo.

Leave a comment.