Editor’s Note: Monarch Vintage plans to re-open their Verona storefront space when the team returns to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct 16. They will be online-only until then.
“What are you guys doing here?” a man asked Sean Flynn and Madison Rae, owners of Monarch Studios, the curated vintage and new-era shop tucked beyond an ivy-cloaked alley along Allegheny River Boulevard in Verona.
Eddie, the visiting gentleman’s name, works down the street from Monarch Studios. He had spotted the shop’s sign and was eager to explore. “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse is playing in the background, as if inviting the whole Verona community to “come on over.”
Flynn and Rae talk about the history of the building (an old savings and loans business turned art gallery turned vintage wonderland). When Eddie departs, he shakes their hands grateful for the chat and gives them a sincere, “Good luck.”
The interaction was so, well, so Verona. The intimate community is devoted and curious, but first and foremost, welcoming. There was no other place Flynn and Rae would plant their vintage retail roots.
“This town is a sleeper,” said Rae. “When we came to Verona, it felt like a 20-minute drive to get somewhere that normally we would drive two hours to get to some cool little town.”
Sean Flynn, at 27, and Madison Rae, at 26, are, as Rae puts it “O.G. high school sweethearts,” and have been collecting antiques and vintage clothing together for more than eight years. They originally invested in the Verona space as storage for their findings.
“One day we drove through town, it was a gorgeous night, and the light was shining just right. We thought this neighborhood could do retail,” said Rae exchanging a smile with Flynn. “A week later, we started.”
The name Monarch is close to their hearts, named in honor of Flynn’s grandfather.
Pap, as he was called, was a hardworking, dedicated man (he would fit right in with the people of Verona). “When he [Sean’s grandfather] passed away, my family started seeing monarch butterflies everywhere,” said Flynn. “When we thought about the name, there wasn’t a better name than something that honored him.”
Monarch Studios sells online in addition to their brick-and-mortar space, but the physical space allows Flynn and Rae to experience the magic of vintage firsthand. “Online is fun and all, but you never get those personal experiences,” Flynn added. “When you have a physical space, you get to see the true joy people get out of the nostalgia and the items.”
Monarch Studios opened in May 2019 with weekend hours and appointment offerings, but Flynn and Rae feel right now is its true opening. They are more familiar with Verona and able to offer consistent hours.
Walking down the alley, a bright, one-of-a-kind Monarch Studios mural by CaMoCustomz™ greets you. Once through the door, you are transported to a secret world of vintage merriment. Everywhere you look, there is something to discover. Each room is curated by the decade or the type of product for easy shopping.
“We had fun,” said Rae. “It’s fun to see it [the shop] progress. You see the difference in quality and style. It’s allowed us to make so many different vibes in so many different rooms.”
The “kitchen,” as it’s called, is the first space upon entering the shop. It carries antique glassware, and true American vintage flannels, denim and military pieces. Moving along, the soundproof vault, with a foot of concrete on each side making it cool and eerie, contains rare vintage band and concert T-Shirts and sought-after Marvel and video game shirts.
The gallery, the main space complete with a vintage National cash register, offers everything from late ‘70s vintage pieces to new-era gear. The sneaker selection is impressive. There is everything from retro Jordans and vintage Nike and Reebok sneakers to “deadstock” (completely new, never touched the floor) collaboration sneakers such as Yeezys, Supreme and Off-White.
Madison’s space toward the back of the shop contains unique and inclusive women’s dresses and other vintage gems. And, lastly and most rightly, there is a space solely dedicated to vintage Pittsburgh Steelers’ gear.
Though a new business, Flynn and Rae are wasting no time creating an identity. The shop’s tagline is “Gather and Give Back.”
“It is gathering people, gathering these goods,” said Rae. “A big part of this business is sustainability, finding a way to offset what goes into buying and setting up all this, so you can buy this stuff with the clearest conscious.”
Part of their commitment to sustainability is cleaning the riverbanks of Verona. As part of their self-initiated Project Offset, Flynn and Rae have planned trash walks, complete with trash pickers, around Verona and beyond. Whatever waste they bring in, particularly in packaging, they will recycle a comparable amount of waste from the wild.
Monarch Studios is finding its home among the intimate, hardworking Verona community. And Verona, in return, is happy to have them.
They are nestled within a two-block radius of other supportive small businesses, including Inner Groove Brewing, Mechanic Coffee Company, Stonewall Cider House and Meadery, Eiler’s Hardware and E.N. Miller Antique Mall.
“It [the shop] gives me faith in Pittsburgh and specifically Verona,” said Rae. “We saw the potential and now we get to show that to other people. I am so happy we bet on it.”
We are, too. Pap would certainly approve.
736 Allegheny River Blvd
Verona, PA 15147
Mon – Wed: By Appointment Only (DM through Monarch Studio’s Instagram)
Thu: 5 PM – 9 PM (beginning Wed, Oct 16)
Fri: 4PM – 8PM (beginning Wed, Oct 16)
Sat: 1PM – 8 PM (beginning Wed, Oct 16)
Header Photo by Melissa Carey. Follow Melissa on Instagram.