Portsmouth’s Odd Showroom will celebrate its 12th year in business on Dec. 24, but owner Amity Joy Armbruster says that if sales don’t increase, this may be the store’s last year.
The store, located at 117 Market St., sells an eclectic mix of crocheted and repurposed clothing and women and men’s vintage apparel. Armbruster creates the new clothes sold in the shop by hand and even hand-sews the store’s shopping bags. Armbruster’s clothes can be seen around Portsmouth and even in Hollywood — Monica Ostby wore a piece created by Armbruster at the premiere of “Cowboys and Aliens” in 2011.
But Armbruster says 2014 has been her toughest business year so far. Summers once lucrative with tourist and local traffic alike have dwindled to a few dollars a day. In June, she fell behind on rent, and until this week, Armbruster was considering selling her car to keep the store open.
“My average has been from $5 to $25 a day,” says Armbruster. ”Luckily I’ve had a busy Christmas weekend, but every cent is going straight to back rent. I’m fortunate that I like what I do because I haven’t been able to pay myself in months. I’ll be caught up with the money I’ve made, but coming into the slow season is a worry.”
Armbruster admits it is very likely she could close in the coming month.
“I’ve been in business for 12 years, and have never been late for rent, so I am fortunate to have a strong relationship with my landlords. They’re willing to work with the situation,” she says.
Armbruster attributes the decline in business partly to a lack of parking downtown. There’s less foot traffic at her end of Market Street, she says, because it leads away from downtown. Armbruster says interest in vintage clothes has declined and that she’s had to devote more time and resources to making her own clothes to sell.
Savings have helped Armbruster get through most of 2014, she says. So has support from her friends and donations of knit items, which she has used to help cut the costs of making new clothes. Although she’s seen a boost in sales from holiday shoppers, it hasn’t been enough.
“Honestly, I would do anything to keep the shop open — working until 6 and going to a restaurant job. To me it would be worth it,” she says. “I always depend on summer to get me through the year, and 2014 just wasn’t busy.” — Minta Carlson