This summer, I made a trip to the legendary Brimfield Antique Market to buy for the Put This On Shop. I bought my antique dealer mom, and we enjoyed three full days of shopping, filling our luggage with treasures. Brimfield, though, wasn’t the highlight of my trip. The highlight was in Lynn, just outside Boston: the legendary warehouse of the legendary vintage shop Bobby From Boston.
If you’re not familiar with this august institution, get familiar. Bobby’s is the best men’s vintage shop in the world, and while we lost Bobby himself a few years ago, his daughter is continuing his legacy. Anytime I’m in town, I make a beeline for the store, and every time I pay, the clerk will say, “You really seem to love this stuff. You should get out to Lynn and visit the warehouse sometime.” I’m often in Boston on tour or for an event, and I’ve never been able to find the time, but this time around, I sat my mom down and told her: “we’re spending our last day vintage shopping.” After an email went unreplied-to, I called the shop, and they were nice enough to give me a phone number for Ed Tonderys, a longtime colleague of Bobby’s (we’re talking decades) who runs the warehouse. A quick call and a couple of text messages and we were set.
Lynn was once known as the “City of Sin,” but it’s got a much mellower vibe these days. The building is owned by an affluent preservationist and sign collector – he uses the first floor to store a remarkable collection of neon signs, and the facade to display them. The warehouse was once a factory, no surprise in an industrial city, and when Bobby moved in, he was one of the few tenants who understood the value of keeping the building as-is, crumbling stairs and all. Generations of vintage enthusiasts, screen costumers and dealers have come through the battered old door and entered a menswear paradise. Bobby’s specializes in pre-1970s styles, so it’s a junk-free shopping experience, but if you’re used to shopping at high-end vintage boutiques in New York or London, you’ll be very happy with the prices.
Above the first floor is Bobby’s, then a floor run by Otto Johnson, one of Bobby’s running buddies for decades. Otto is open to the public once a month but if he’s around, he’s glad to show you what he’s got. Up top is a staging floor that’s also got Ed’s personal collection. He was kind enough to let us up there before he scooted off to pick up his daughter from school.
The honest truth is: my mom and I shopped for hours, and could have stayed for hours more. Hearing Ed and Otto’s stories about Bobby and the vintage game was a delight, and it’s pretty extraordinary to get to pick through such an incredible volume of beautiful clothes. I already had my luggage full of goods for our own shop, but I made room for three purchases: a pair of deadstock army khakis from the 40s, an old Brooks Brothers quarter-lined tweed jacket, and some truly outrageous checked woolen trousers. Prices were notably reasonable – the pants were $45, the coat $65. And the company – both human and sartorial – was priceless.
The warehouse is by appointment only, but if you’re a serious shopper, you can drop Ed a line 603-502-9882, and he’ll find a time for you to come in. The warehouse is at 545 Washington Street in Lynn, Mass.