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Bed-Stuy Teacher Opens Vintage Clothing Store

 Stellah Johnson, a 52-year-old second grade teacher from Bed-Stuy, was running Stellah's Vintage Groove online as an Etsy store. Now she has her own storefront.
Stellah's Vintage Groove
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — An enterprising second-grade teacher from Bed-Stuy who started selling vintage clothing through her Etsy shop has now opened up her own boutique storefront.

Stellah Johnson, 52, opened Stellah's Vintage Groove earlier this year. It features clothing from the 1950s through the 1990s alongside her own handmade African designs.

While her day job is at P.S. 21, Johnson said she became enamored of vintage clothing years ago, thanks to discovering her own gems while shopping.

"You can't compare the quality of the fabric, the aesthetics of the design, it's just incredible," Johnson said of vintage clothing. "That's the thing that really made me start wearing it."

Johnson began selling clothes she'd acquired over the years through the Etsy shop she founded in 2007. Since then, her collection has grown through visits to local flea markets and thrift shops.

A Bed-Stuy resident of 25 years, Johnson has long thought of starting her own shop modeled after stores like Beacon's Closet. She decided to open up her shop at 1233A Bedford Ave. after seeing the recent success of nearby small businesses.

"I've seen the transition and I've seen where it's heading and I said I need to do this right now," Johnson said.

When she isn't teaching or selling vintage clothing with her 27-year-old daughter Sade, Johnson focuses on her own brand of African-inspired clothing, "Tribal Groove." 

This year, she'll be selling those designs at the DanceAfrica bazaar, an annual market that's part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's DanceAfrica series.

Johnson describes the prices in Stellah's Vintage Groove as affordable, with shirts going for about $50 and dresses around $60. Her most expensive items, ballgowns from the 1950s, go for about $100.

But the selection in the store is just a fraction of the clothing she owns, Johnson said.

"Right now I have a storage where I have a whole bunch of stuff I've been holding for years," she said.

"I've got some psychoses and some hoarding issues," she added with a laugh. "Believe that."