By Alexa Solis
On the corner of Mary and Virginia streets sits an empty room. Sunlight flows through its ample windows, and there is a girl, petite and smartly dressed, sweeping its concrete floors. The light hits her face as she looks out onto the busy street.
Francesca Martinez, 22, is turning that empty room into her dream —⎯ Bad Apple VNTG. The idea for the shop began while working in Los Angeles where everything seemed to be going sour. After graduating early from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Martinez was eager to get out into the workforce, and she did. Martinez was able to attain a highly coveted buyer position, rare for a person of 20. However, it wasn’t all that she had hoped it to be.
“After I graduated college, which I finished early, I had a lot of free time because all these jobs weren’t really happening,” Martinez said. “I had all these interviews, and nothing was really following through. When I was working at a buying office, it was very stressful and I was crying in the restroom on breaks and stuff like that. It was like ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”
The stressful buying position led Martinez to question everything, thinking that she was too young to be completely consumed by someone else’s problems. Then a friend mentioned that she should open a store, and the seed for Bad Apple VNTG. was planted.
Martinez then put all of her energy into creating a store. Writing business plan after business plan, the store became the light at the end of the tunnel just when everything about LA was making Martinez even more miserable. Finally, Martinez packed up her things and moved to Reno in search of the opportunities and growth that LA just couldn’t afford a young person like herself.
After coming to Reno, Martinez began working at The Melting Pot. She worked her way up from general manager to office manager, and then decided that it was time to finally make her own dream a reality.
It hasn’t been an easy road, with finding the location and funding being Martinez’s biggest challenges. According to Martinez, it’s very difficult to attain a loan being as young as she is. Unable to get a loan, Martinez is starting her business out of pocket and through credit. Though finding a loan was a major challenge, it was nothing compared to finding a location.
“She spent months and months just asking around, trying to keep up on leads for spots that were opening up before anybody else grabbed them up,” said Nathaniel Benjamin, Martinez’s boyfriend. “Seems to me like the business community is all really tightly knit and it’s not the easiest thing to find your way in unless you’ve got the confidence to just make the jump and put yourself out there, which she’s been doing now for a long time.”
After struggling for months to find a location, Martinez found the perfect spot. Not only was it in the heart of MidTown, but its massive windows are perfect for Martinez’s extravagant window displays. An admirer of stores such as Anthropologie, whose window displays are detailed and eye catching, Martinez is looking to differentiate herself from other shops in the area.
Though Martinez is trying to bring a different kind of visual merchandising to MidTown, she is also trying to boost the profile of the ever growing collective of local businesses and owners. According to Martinez, MidTown is the heart and soul of the community outside of Burning Man and gambling culture.
Fellow local boutique owner and friend of Martinez, Kendra Cro, is also a proponent of the growing number of businesses coming to MidTown. Cro’s boutique Culture has been open since March.
“I’ve noticed an increased awareness for supporting small business in Reno,” Cro said. “People want to keep their money in the community. It’s been great to watch MidTown bloom and I am beyond excited to be a part of it, [and] I would tell Francesca first of all, that I’m so proud of her!”
As Martinez begins preparing the space that Bad Apple VNTG. will soon occupy, she has set an opening date of May 15. The shop will offer not only vintage clothing, but jewelry and goods made by local artists. Bad Apple VNTG. will also offer plus size clothing, which is a criminally underrepresented part of the community, according to Martinez.
According to Martinez, Bad Apple VNTG. is a shop that’s out to make a difference and support the local community in every way, a trend among many that are trying to shift the focus away from gambling and Burning Man and toward the diverse art and culture that Reno has to offer.
“It seems to me like her motivation is based on … Independence isn’t the right word, more like self-reliance, plus her desire to create a community space where people can come and share their creativity,” Benjamin said.
Alexa Solis can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @thealexasolis.