In this ongoing series, ArtRat Gallery Social Media Intern Melody Hoffer explores the people, places and things that make our neighborhood great. Email ArtRat with feedback and suggestions about the topics you want to see us cover!

Randi Mikesell checks the racks at The August Connection.

Within the space of one short year, a new wave of vintage shops has transformed Grand Rapids’ SoDiv strip (South Division Ave. from Fulton to Wealthy). The August Connection is the latest arrival, and it’s bringing something new to Vintage Row: kids’ clothes. 

Slated to open the first week of June at 325 Division Ave. S, The August Connection will share the block with fellow vintage shop OTONO (317 Division Ave. S); Second Dance Bridal & Formal Consignment (319 Division Ave. S); and Cocoon Art Space (327 Division Ave. S). 

Before leasing their SoDiv brick-and-mortar, co-owners Randi Mikesell and Matty Lehman spent the past two years hunting for pieces for children, teens and adults, then selling their finds at pop-up sales. “Finding these unique, one-of-a-kind children’s pieces doesn't feel like work to me,” Randi said. “I really enjoy the hunt. It takes time, of course, but I have fun doing it.

“Being able to cater to all ages is something that we are glad to have been able to bring to the vintage community here,” she continued. “We really pride ourselves on that.”

Fashion for everyone

Like other shops in the district, The August Connection’s fashion sense is focused on inclusivity. “We really want this to be a space that is for everyone,” Matty said. “Of course we want to make money, but we also want people to be able to come in and come together in a space where they can have fun and feel at ease while trying on clothes. 

Randi Mikesell and Matty Lehman in front of The August Connection.

"We aren't pretentious, and we aren't stuffy! We’re very chill, and we want the vibe here to be easygoing.”

Randi added, “We want people to be able to enjoy the experience that is vintage shopping, and we try to keep it affordable while still retaining the value of vintage.”

And when it comes to neighboring businesses, the new owners report they’ve been welcomed with open arms.

“Everyone has been really fantastic,” Randi said. “The businesses helping other businesses. … The way they've built a support system with each other is so great.” 

“We genuinely feel very welcomed,” Matty continued. “We could see the excitement on [other business owners’] faces when they heard we were interested in this space, and then again when it worked out and we were moving in.”

A look on display at The August Connection.

In addition to The August Connection and OTONO, SoDiv’s vintage district includes Zabház (222 Division Ave. S), Decaydence Vintage (71 Division Ave. S) and Second Vibess (13 Division Ave. S). 

Destination: vintage

Zabház owner Janna Maris said she sees nothing but upside from the new arrivals. “Having another vintage shop on what I like to call ‘Divintage’ is really turning South Division into a destination for vintage shopping,” she said. “I really don't feel like any of the shops step on other shops' toes, either. When you walk into each one of our stores, every space feels like it has its own unique environment. 

“I also don't think having another vintage shop will oversaturate anything. The more shops we have, the more of a draw we have, and the more we can really call South Division a vintage shopping destination.” 

The August Connection team agrees. “We chose Heartside because we already had some friends here, we know the area, and it feels like home,” Matty said. “This area is vibrant, exciting and affordable. It’s a beautiful, historic neighborhood — it really is quite stunning. 

“We’re excited to be a part of what's happening here.”