One of the Babes: Sarah Gayeski
Meet Sarah Gayeski, creator and owner of Cointrelle (pronounced: /'kwan-trell/) a vintage clothing shop. Learn more below about how Sarah got started re-selling vintage pieces and what has inspired her to work for the past 22 years in the retail industry.
Q: Did you have any role models or learn from someone, in particular?
A: Vintage has always been part of my life. My family was poor so we thrifted out of necessity, and there were several hoarders in our extended family—having old stuff was the norm for us. It was something I was ashamed of as a kid, but then grunge and riot grrrl happened. Those movements made it acceptable and even cool to wear vintage. I was a young teen living in the Pacific Northwest at the time, and I think the combination of time/place/circumstance inspired me to not openly embrace vintage, but explore fashion history.
The more I learned, the more I fell in love with everything about vintage. I loved it so much that I would skip school to browse vintage stores in downtown Portland, just to soak up the ambience. One day I realized those stores were buying their merchandise off the public. Soon after, I was buying stuff at thrift stores to resell to them, only I wasn't reselling it myself (you had to be 18+ in order to sell). So I'd find random squatter punks and/or homeless people and have them sell the clothes for me in exchange for a cut of the money. Having that cash in hand—now, that was INSPIRING! I went from having no direction to having a passion I lived for and one that generated income. I've been in the industry ever since. I turned 35 this month so I've done this for 22 years overall. It's been an official business for the past 17 years.
I never had a mentor. There were plenty of people tied to the vintage clothing industry who I observed from a distance and was inspired by, though. Ray who owns Ray's Ragtime in Portland is fabulous. He had the most incredible selection of classic vintage pieces, including celebrity-owned couture gowns won at Christie's auctions. His store set the standards of good taste for me. I was always in awe of all the cool, older girls who wore vintage, too—the rockabilly gals with their Bettie Page bangs and full skirts, the mod gals with their bright colors and impeccable tailoring, etc. And of course ladies tied to the grunge and riot grrrl movements, such as Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland and Allison Wolfe, their personal style was all equally inspiring.
Q: Do you have any tidbits of advice for people with passions, in general?
A: Sometimes, it isn't practical to pour all of your time/resources/energy into your passions. Always pursue them on whatever level it's realistic for you to pursue, though. They'll enrich you, and you never know what doors they'll open. It's better to keep the door open than closed. NEVER give up your passions because they're what make life worth living.
Q: What have been your favorite moments of creativity?
A: I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease last year after a 3-month long 'flare up' of Crohn's that nearly killed me. It was a painful, scary, god awful experience, but one that did me a favor in many ways. It made me realize how fragile my own life is, and that there's so much I hadn't accomplished in life due to a lack of confidence. I was never good at 'putting myself out there' for fear of rejection. My personal growth, as well as that of my business, suffered from a lack of connections.
After the flare up, I woke up and said "fuck it!" I nearly died, what more could I possibly have to lose, right? I started networking like crazy, and it's been such an amazing, rewarding experience—one of the greatest gifts this life has given me. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do all these pop-ups and flea markets, to meet and collaborate with such amazing people. Austin has such a strong creative community, and I'm honored to be a part of it on some level. It's a constant source of inspiration for me. You guys motivate me to accomplish more, to meet more people, to keep going and take this as far as I can.
Q: What have been your most challenging moments in your career, thus far?
A: The aforementioned Crohn's disease was a mystery for years, and one that set me back financially in a major way many times over. Thankfully I know better now. It's something that's manageable with a combination of the right diet and avoiding stress as much as possible. I do my best to stay healthy.
Emotional health is just as important as physical health (the two are intertwined). I try to think positive as much as possible. This includes thinking in terms of abundance rather than scarcity. It wasn't always like this. I'm glad I was able to change my thinking because it changed my life.
Q: What's your day job?
A: This has been my day job for the past 17 years. There's been tough times when I've taken part-time jobs to supplement my income, though. I've worked in restaurants, retail, strip clubs, even sold diamonds online for a pawn shop. Each job taught me something new, and I'm thankful for that.
Q: When you're discouraged, what do you run to or away from?
A: When I'm discouraged I just work harder because escapism only creates more problems. Self-care makes it easier to take on challenges, though. Little things like yoga, drinking hot tea and burning sage can do so much to relieve stress.
Your favorite band at the moment: My favorite band of all time, The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Your favorite book at the moment: "The Millionaire Next Door" by Thomas J Stanley
Your local Austin gem: There are SO many. Austin has no shortage for talent and quality stuff:
— Mother's Cafe for vegetarian food... especially anything you can drown in their cashew tamari dressing
— The Fox Den for succulents and apothecary goods
— Laced With Romance, Feathers and Skeleton Breath Vintage for curated vintage
— Dolce Vita for feeling like I'm in Europe late at night
— Eastside Showroom for fancy vibes without the snooty attitude
— White Horse Saloon for real country music and the White Horse Flea Market on Saturdays, curated by Cobra Snake Vintage
— The Black Angels for being one of my favorite bands
— Terra/Eastside Popup for putting on amazing events
— City Wide Garage sale for giving me a platform to reach a large audience
— Kerbey Lane Cafe for their avocado enchiladas
— Room Service Vintage for their overwhelming amount of cool stuff
— Rave On Vintage for mid century anything
— Zen Japanese Food Fast for the customizable, build your own bowls
— Tom's Tabooley for falafel with carrots inside!
— Tiny Tails To You for being a mobile petting zoo....too cool
— Courtney Chavanell and Cecilia Alejandra for photography
— Talena + Trista at New Bohemia/New Brohemia for being badasses
— Uncommon Objects for their amazing merchandising
— Juiceland for everything on their menu
— Sweet Ritual for vegan ice cream
— The Austin Zoo for rescuing so many animals
— Yellow Jacket Social Club for my favorite outdoor seating
— Nature's Treasures for the extensive crystal selection.
— Buddha's Brew kombucha, yum
— Levitation (aka Austin Psych Fest) for maintaining the same good vibe no matter how big the crowd has gotten
And lastly, #bossbabesATX for uniting women working/living in Austin. Duh.
Your social media handles: You can find Cointrelle and Sarah on Instagram.