Kaufman’s Building Goes Back in Time for Fashion

For a day at least, a small section of downtown Wheeling looked like the fashion capital of the world.

On Friday evening, photographers and models with ModCloth – an online store based in Pittsburgh – conducted a photo and video shoot outside the old Kaufman’s building on Main Street. The windows were dressed bright pink to complement the teal 1960s facade and decorated with a variety of vintage dresses. For some, the sight may have conjured memories of searching for wedding or prom dresses there in decades past. While taking a break from modeling clothes, Amy Roberts of Washington, Pa., said she was excited to learn they were going to do a photo shoot at the store, as she had purchased her prom dress there in 2007.

”All I can remember is that it was jam-packed with dresses,” said Roberts, who noted her parents Randy and Lori still live in Washington. ”It was something to see it (dressed up), but I was sad to see it had closed.”

Kaufman’s closed in 2010 after its owners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The shop had been in business for 80 years.

Since Kaufman’s recently came onto the real estate market with First Choice Realtors, passersby may have believed the building had been sold and a new shop had opened Friday. But ModCloth was using the storefront just for the evening to capture photos for its new holiday campaign, slated to appear on its website – www.modcloth.com – starting Nov. 19.

Founder Susan Gregg Koger said she was impressed with the building’s facade and thought it went well with her company’s mid-century style designs and vintage pieces.

”It’s cool to have a setting like this. … I know it’s cliche to say, but they don’t make them like they used to,” Koger said of the building.

”A few people have stopped and asked, ‘What is opening?”’ she added.

Koger started selling vintage clothes from her college dorm room with help from her husband and then-boyfriend Eric.

They were attending Carnegie Mellon University, where Koger double majored in business and German. She started her online business in 2002 and, for now, does not plan on opening a storefront. Along with Pittsburgh, she also has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

”We want to get great online so we’ll continue to invest there. That’s what we’re good at,” she noted.

Set designer Emily Cosnotti said it took a week to prepare the building for the shoot, which included cleaning the storefront and its windows.

”We picked pink because it really pops with the teal facade,” she said of the background fabric.

Cosnotti noted one of the company’s employees, Joe DeFerrari, used to work in Wheeling and helped scout the Kaufman’s building to be used for the new campaign.

Koger said this was her first visit to Wheeling. She said she enjoyed shopping for vintage items at the Stages costume shop also on Main Street.

”Stages is awesome for vintage. It’s such a cool place,” she noted.