Every picture, every piece of clothing, every knickknack has a story behind it's aged appearance at a vintage shop or antique store. Kim Stoneman opened GUS Vintage Goods in August in Redondo Beach's Riviera Village with the hope of bringing some of those stories to life with some of the items, from jewelry to fabrics, that she helps restore.
“It's a history, it's a heritage. there's so much beauty behind all the stuff in here,” Stoneman said.
Stoneman taught art at Lunada Bay Elementary School for 12 years before opening GUS. Not only is GUS an outlet for vintage goods, she opened an art gallery in the store's back room that showcases the talents of high schools artists from the South Bay and veteran artists as well.
“Once I got the store open, I wanted to stay in art in a mentoring sort of position,” Stoneman said.
Stoneman said she shops mostly in the Midwest and a little in Upstate New York and the South.
“I make three trips a year and then I gather all my goods and go through them slowly and clean them and repair them and then they make their way into the store,” Stoneman said.
Everything in the store is vintage or made with vintage fabrics or trims, including everything from pillows to Daisy Dukes to custom crosses. She also has a fondness for boots, belts and pocket books.
“If I can't restore something I take the vintage pieces and make wrap bracelets …. we take vintage beads off of something that couldn't be restored and put them on a necklace,” she said.
Scattered throughout GUS, which is a renovated 1940s home, are pictures of Stoneman's family. Her grandmother's chair is sitting near the store's counter. Growing up in Lockport, Ill., Stoneman would rummage through her grandmother's cabinets when she was a little girl, and she would tell her stories about the items.
“I try to bring everything I learned from my grandma and my aunts (into the store). My aunt made all our clothes when I was a little girl. I learned how to sew, dye fabrics, change a zipper, learn how to clean things properly.”
The name GUS comes from when she was growing up in that small town, population 3,000.
“Everybody knows everything you do all the time, you can't get away with anything. My friends, we tried,” Stoneman said. “In the fifth grade, we said we need to come up with our own words, where people don't know what we're talking about, so we could talk in code. Gus was the word we used for the boy we liked or thought was cute or had a crush on or wish liked us. It stuck with us through high school, through college. We toasted Gus at our weddings. We talk about Gus now with our daughters.”
Stoneman has three children – senior Shea, sophomore Quinn and seventh grader Daisy – who she and her husband, Steve, want to go to college. So she “didn't want to be selfish” when taking the leap in opening GUS.
“They were like, 'Go for it,'” she said. “My husband was 100 percent. Everybody pitched in to help me make it happen.”
Griffin Mactavish, a 15-year-old student at Palos Verdes High School, opened the GUS Gallery of Fine Art. Since then, Stoneman has showcased work from Mira Costa and Redondo high school students. Currently, the photography of local Katrin Cooper is on display as well as the paintings by Linda Ernst, the grandmother of Mactavish. The exhibit will be on display until Saturday, Dec. 20. That will be followed by work from Madison Murray, a former student of Stoneman's who now attends Boston College. That show will open Sunday, Dec. 21. The art is sold throughout the store when the exhibit is finished.
Stoneman feels the gallery is a great learning experience for all the artists.
“When you put your work up, you invite people to come in, and they are all going to have different perspectives,” Stoneman said. “They may not see the art the way you saw it when you created it. But you will get good feedback, you'll have more of an understanding of the way people look and visualize through your art. You can only grow from it.”
Stoneman said business owners at the Riviera Village have welcomed her with open arms.
“I've always been a patron of the shopping in the Village and the restaurants and now I'm a part of it … everybody on the Avenue talks to each other and helps each other and sends people to each other, which is nice for the new girl on the block,” Stoneman said.
GUS is located at 209 Ave. I. GUS also shares space with Stoneprints, which creates the store's T-shirts and socks.
For more information, call (310) 210-9448, or visit gusvintagegoods.com.