James Morelos at the newly opened Market Market.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMAN
“My mother taught me that you don’t have to have money to have style,” says James Morelos, who grew up in an East Los Angeles home furnished with thrift store finds. As a teenager, Morelos took up his mom’s mantle, scouring secondhand shops for one-of-a-kind clothes.
The founder of Mojave Flea Trading Post (with locations in Palm Springs and Yucca Valley), Morelos debuted an expansive “department store” on New Year’s Day 2023. The showroom, dubbed Market Market, exclusively carries vintage and repurposed wares.
Market Market’s goal is to offer shoppers a more curated, luxurious experience than they might have digging through thrift marts or combing antique stores — without taking away the thrill of the hunt.
“Because there are so many different aesthetics represented, people are still interested in finding their look,” Morelos explains. “But also, we work with some very serious dealers, and the lengths that they go to find things and preserve them, clean them, restore them, wash them, repair them … there’s a reason why some of the [items] are a little bit more expensive.”
In addition to showcasing a selection of secondhand goods to rival the Long Beach Antique Market or Rose Bowl Flea in Pasadena, the vintage emporium will feature a liquor store vending gourmet provisions, plus food and coffee pop-ups — all in service of making Market Market the kind of place you can comfortably get lost in for hours. Morelos hopes customers emerge equipped with clothing that communicates their personal viewpoint to the world.
“[Vintage] isn’t just about sustainability,” he muses. “It’s storytelling. And shouldn’t our lives be about storytelling?”
Return of the Goods
Consider your favorite T-shirt. The one you wear on casual first dates and at every concert, the one you almost ruined on your best/worst night out, the one you’ve plucked out of the laundry basket before it reached the washer.
Every shirt for sale at Indio vintage outpost Return of the Goods has tales to tell, too. “Each garment I pick up, I always have the actual story — the actual person or the history behind the T-shirt,” founder Daniel Mata explains.
Mata had a casual interest in vintage. Then, when the pandemic struck, he began to thrift in earnest, traveling as far as Texas to rescue retro streetwear from obscurity. He had no intention of selling, but as his collection grew, Mata saw money-making potential.
The thrifter began hawking vintage out of his trunk and garage and at the Indio swap meet. Encouraged by his mentor, Ejay Gomez, the owner of nearby coffee shop Everbloom, he partnered with local businesses to host pop-ups. Finally, he set his sights on a physical space inside the Urban Donkey collective in Old Town Indio.
“Before I ever wanted a brick-and-mortar, before I ever wanted to think to open up a store, I made a community,” Mata recalls. “Opening day, there were over a hundred people standing in line in 114-degree weather.”
Mata takes a particularly thoughtful approach to secondhand selling, rounding up themed drops, like 50-plus-piece collections of retro Nascar merch or vintage Nike. But along with his fair prices, Return of the Goods’ fans are drawn to Mata’s generous spirit.
“My slogan is … recycle love,” he shares. Since becoming a business owner, he’s been able to spend more time with his 6-year-old son. Now he’s working to pay it forward, mentoring others and partnering with fellow vintage seller Cool Cat Threads and local juice bar Forbidden Fruit to build a vibrant community space in Indio.
“My whole life, I was chasing to be a part of something,” Mata reflects. “It feels like I’m finally a part of something.”
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