Life Style

At U-Mall in NYC, Vintage Treasures Are Sold Out of a Moving Truck

Glancing inside the back of the 15-foot U-Haul truck parked near McCarren Park in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Sunday, you might think someone had moved in.

There was a chrome-legged couch placed in front of a decorative folding screen. A blue Persian-style area rug covered the floor; shelves filled with graphic T-shirts and colorful glassware sat on one side of the truck; and a clothing rack stuffed with vests, skirts and jackets lined the opposite side.

But what appeared to be a shoebox-sized studio was actually a makeshift store. Most items in the truck were for sale, including the couch. It was designed by the Italian architect Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia, a high-end furniture company, and it cost about $4,000. (It was not purchased.)

Additional wares were being hawked on a nearby sidewalk, including vintage sweaters, coats and shoes, as well as rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets (starting at $36) designed by Ashley Volbeda, 34, who was selling jewelry from her line, Aveta.

Ms. Volbeda, who lives in Queens, was one of eight sellers tapped by Gerald Ortiz for the shopping event, a sort of outdoor-market-meets-stoop-sale that he has named U-Mall.

Mr. Ortiz, 34, a style commerce writer at GQ who lives in Brooklyn, started organizing the U-Mall events earlier this year, after his penchant for buying vintage clothes — which he has talked about in several GQ videos — evolved to include buying vintage furniture during the pandemic.

“At one point,” he said, “I counted somewhere around 20 or so chairs in my apartment.”

Instead of offloading his inventory at a traditional stoop sale, Mr. Ortiz said he wanted to organize something that felt more like a curated pop-up shop involving other vendors. By renting a U-Haul truck, he realized that he could not only transport furniture he wanted to sell, but also host the sale basically anywhere he could find parking and use the truck as a space to display the goods being sold.

At the first U-Mall event, held in May near McCarren Park, Mr. Ortiz was one of six sellers. Subsequent events, which have also been staged near the park, have included slightly more.

“I’m generally looking for people who are doing something that is interesting or cool, but also for people who don’t necessarily have a physical space to showcase what they do,” Mr. Ortiz said of the sellers he has tapped, who have included ceramic artists and designers of clothing and furniture, along with some of his friends.

“Pretty much everybody that I’ve brought on doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar, and generally they don’t have a huge following, but they do something cool,” he said.

Mr. Ortiz has mostly relied on word of mouth and social media to advertise each event. For all of them, he has rented a 15-foot U-Haul truck. Each rental has cost him about $100, he said, and he has sometimes split that cost with other sellers.

About 100 people visited the fourth U-Mall installment on Sunday, which took place over about five hours. Tony Chung, 34, an actor and model who lives in Williamsburg, stopped by with his girlfriend as they were walking to get bagels.

“I can tell that there’s just this community around what they’re doing,” said Mr. Chung, who purchased some Syoaiya pants ($90) and a pair of leather Oxford shoes by WANT Les Essentiels ($50), both of which were secondhand. “The energy was off the charts.”

Kate Walz, 26, a fashion designer in Brooklyn, had a collection of T-shirts for sale ($68 each) inside the U-Haul truck. To make them, she had stills from a video of a friend dancing to choreography by Martha Graham printed on old T-shirts.

“I’ve been inspired by Martha Graham for a long time,” Ms. Walz said. “So I was just trying to figure out a way that I could sort of showcase her movement in my work.”

Nicolás Añón, a furniture maker and the founder of Bedroom Sink, a studio in Brooklyn, did not attend the most recent event, but a foam vase ($35) and a wooden stool ($350) he made were among the items for sale. Mr. Añón, 24, who has attended past events, said that U-Mall had not only helped introduce him to new customers, but also to a community of like-minded individuals.

“It’s almost like they’re world-building in a way,” he said. “Even if you don’t make a ton of sales, they’ve curated a space where people are hanging out and interested in seeing what these different people have going on.”

Mr. Ortiz said he hopes to host another U-Mall event in November, noting that he may hold off on organizing future installments during colder months.

“I’d like to keep it going for a while, though it’s unclear to me how I’d like it to evolve,” he said.

“I’ve had several stores express interest in wanting to host U-Mall outside of their storefronts,” he added. “And a couple friends who live in L.A. have suggested that we bring U-Mall over there. We’ll see!”

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Mohammad SHiblu

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