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

Just a couple of months ago, Tom Short and Jim Long weren’t planning to become the owners of Heartside’s newest vintage store. Then a thrift boom on South Division Ave. and a beautiful storefront put the couple on the fast track to launch Decaydence Vintage in a scant three weeks.  

Interior view of Decaydence Vintage looking out at South Division Ave. in Grand Rapids

“I told him that he should really just open a whole store,” Jim said from behind the counter of the spacious vintage store stocked wall-to-wall with second-hand treasures. Jim gestured to Tom.

Laughing, Tom agreed: “It just sparked something in me … And now we’re here! It’s like a dream come true.”

After Tom and Jim moved to Grand Rapids from Lansing in 2020, Tom began selling vintage posters, toys and clothing from a 100-square-foot booth. But a retail space on the corner of South Division and Oakes got them thinking bigger. 

Colorful merchandise at Decaydence Vintage.

“We had looked at other spots, but after seeing this space, we knew we would fit in here. We just loved the vibe; it’s right next to the beautiful Harris Building (at 111 S. Division), and the record store (Vertigo Music at 129 S. Division). We signed the lease, and within days we had keys. We couldn’t believe it.”

There wasn’t much time to bask in their success, though, as they only had three weeks to open before ArtPrize 2022 kicked off on Oct. 15. Tom told ArtRat that he just did what he does best: initiating a search for the perfect pieces and picking out the design elements they needed to dress the shop. 

A brick-and-mortar store presented a whole new set of challenges, from repairing the AC and hand-painting the bathroom to finding the right furnishings to complement the spacious show floor. “I found the golden clothing racks and glass cases online,” Tom said. 

Picking the team

Interior view of Decaydence Vintage.

Now that Decaydence was looking more like a real store, Jim and Tom sought out vendors to fill the space Tom’s original collection couldn’t. Ultimately, they handpicked five local vendors who met their criteria for both passion and quality.

“We don’t even know how they find some of this stuff.” Tom walked me over to the first rack in the store, telling me excitedly, “… Like, did you see this? A vintage Christian Louboutin nightgown — it’s got to be from the ‘60s or something!”

“We worked hard to curate our vibe, and keep our energy up,” Jim said. “We only selected vendors that we know take great pride in finding the best pieces, and who want to succeed.” 

A-frame "Look!" sign in front of Decaydence Vintage on South Division Ave. in Grand Rapids.

“We really feel so validated,” Tom added. “Since the moment we opened, we’ve been elated by the amount of love we’ve gotten. It has been nonstop.” Between the excitement of ArtPrize and a Sept. 24 shop crawl along the avenue, “we haven’t even found time to have our grand opening!”

“This is the place I wished I had when I was a teenager,” Tom said proudly. “If there’s anything we want people to know, it’s that we are constantly changing! We move things every day. You can buy almost anything, even things straight out of your childhood memories.” 

Head over to Decaydence Vintage for an amazing selection of vintage clothing, toys and home goods from local vendors as well as Tom himself. And stay tuned: Tom and Jim promise they will find time for that grand opening. 

Decaydence Vintage (71 S. Division) is open 12-8pm Wednesday through Saturday. While you’re in the neighborhood, also check out vintage offerings at Second Vibess (13 S. Division), Zabház (222 S. Division) and OTONO (317 S. Division). 

Plus, check out ArtRat Gallery’s logowear, pins and other fanciful wearables at 46 S. Division! We’re open 11am-8pm Thursday through Saturday.