The screen door swings back and forth as the wind starts to pick up. The heavier door behind it wears worn paint that appears it could chip away with the slightest touch. The door opens up easily enough and an entirely different world is discovered.
Prints and patterns of every shape and color capture the eye’s attention. Blaring music lands on the ears of those just standing in the lulling silence of a friendly, quiet neighborhood.
Further inspection reveals the racks of clothing are not of this decade. Space and time appear to have been set back to the age of varsity jackets and concert tees.
A single worker sits behind the counter, curating the soundtrack of the shopping experience in front of the customer’s very eye.
Molly Balsam, whose stage name is Molly Rocket, is one of only a select few who keeps Top Knot Vintage, located in East Nashville at 307 North 16th Street, up and running during the week. She started working at the vintage clothing store in the summer of 2016.
“I shopped here a lot and then reached out to see if they needed help,” said Balsam with a look of great joy. This air of happiness grew even more apparent as she described her desire to leave the service industry and how this job allowed her to do that.
Balsam works for two individuals who she would call “super personable and the coolest bosses ever.” On the counter in front of her sit stickers supporting her musical act and countless other local bands or small businesses.
Miriam Creighton and Taylor Sorrell opened the storefront for Top Knot Vintage in March of 2016, but the idea first originated in 2014.
“We both enjoyed fashion and vintage, and saw a market for it in Nashville, so we decided to give it a shot. We started posting a few items on Instagram here and there, and gave Etsy a shot but it wasn’t doing it for us. We wanted the customers to be able to have direct access to the clothing, not just photos,” said Sorrell, reflecting on what started it all.
From there the pair started to grow their business and cater to customers looking for vintage items similar to what is popular in major retailers, except truly vintage and often one-of-a-kind.
Moving from an Etsy shop to pop-up shops allowed the store to grow a following and a steady fan base. “After doing pop-ups for a while, which were exhausting, we started to think about making the move to a brick and mortar. We crunched the numbers and decided it was worth the shot,” said Creighton.
Nashville native and avid Top Knot customer, Erin Sephel, recalls the time she first found out about the store.
“I posted in the East Nashville Facebook page last summer and was trying to get into the vintage market, finding unique items that not everyone has found and someone mentioned Top Knot. That was the first one I went to and I have to say I pretty much stopped looking after that.”
Items like an ’N Sync band shirt, leopard print jacket and countless pairs of Tommy Hilfiger jean shorts are just some of the finds that keep customers coming back to the store.
Sephel is never disappointed when she hits up the shop. “It’s actually the first place I go when I get the urge to go shopping and it’s a small store, but it seems to be carefully curated. It’s not hard to find something unique and really cool.”
Every item is handpicked by either Sorrell or Creighton. It’s become their mission to ensure that every piece of clothing fits the quality and vibe they have set for the store.
“Miriam and I have no formal experience with the fashion industry, or even the retail industry. We follow trends closely, researching and trying to stay a step ahead. Most of the time we pick things we love and things look great, and it just happens to be what’s currently trending, so it’s a win-win. We source it from all across the Southeast, and elsewhere,” says Sorrell as he describes the process by which the store has become what it’s known for today.
Instagram has become the way Top Knot displays their style and what they are about, but it is also what has created their network of customers. With over 8,000 followers on that social media platform it is a resource that they do not take for granted.
“Social media is huge for us. It’s the only advertising we have used for the business, and it allows us to have a two-way conversation with our customers,” said Creighton.
Along with posting pictures of items that are currently available at the store, the owners have made it a point to support local Nashville talent.
“They give away tickets to local shows on Instagram and strive to really show their support for the community they are now such a part of,” said Balsam. In addition to working at Top Knot she also does bookings for shows in the Nashville area which has come to benefit both her and the store. “There’s a ton of creative people in Nashville that come into this shop looking for something to wear for an event or performance. I meet artists who come in here to shop. Just last week there was an artist that came in here to find an outfit for a showcase and now she’s playing one of my bookings.”
The owners just celebrated one year of having a physical space in which to showcase their vision and product, but show no sign of slowing down. The passion that they share for providing the growing youth population of Nashville with the type of fashion they are searching for is apparent just by listening to the way Creighton describes the favorite part of her job. “Finding cool pieces is always exciting, but when a customer finds something that fits so perfect as if it was tailored just for them is what’s really exciting.”
What comes next seems to be the logical question for this growing hidden gem.
“We’d love to move to a larger retail front, where we can carry the same amount of inventory, with a more minimal aesthetic. Maybe a mix of new and vintage. Maybe another location in another city eventually,” says Creighton as she looks to her business partner full of wonder.
With a sly smile Sorrell simply says, “We’ll see.”
As the heavy white door closes on the creativity enclosed behind it, there is much left to be desired for the future and for the next shopping trip.