Collecting the strange, antique, and obscure is second nature to Monika Ludwinek, the founder and curator of Little Shop of Hoarders, a beloved vintage shop and community hub located in the South Wedge area. As a lifelong lover of thrifting and antiquing, Monika has been accruing vintage clothing and antique items her entire life. The only difference now is that she’s selling these objects rather than giving them away to friends and family members. Before opening up Little Shop of Hoarders on Gregory Street, Monika would venture into neighborhood hot spots in Rochester, New York City, and London with her close friends in the search for unique and inspiring pieces to add to her wardrobe. Recalling these fond moments with her companions, she tells us that “we would all go to the thrift stores and find incredibly interesting things - and back then, most of these items were from the ‘60s. We would share all of our clothing together so it would stay fresh and cool, but it was always second hand. Once we were tired of it, we would give it away. That’s what I did, and I kept doing it. It was the only way I knew.” These early experiences with her friends acted as the inspiration for Little Shop of Hoarders, a creation designed to bring the community together and allow visitors to “open their eyes and expand their minds” through exposure to the odd and unknown.
Customers of this charming vintage shop can instantly recognize Monika’s astute sense for creating a fashionable and original environment. By simply gazing upon the walls strewn with local surrealist artwork and walking through the corridors filled with colorful and lively articles of clothing, the care and detail put into the store is clearly evident. While Little Shop of Hoarders is seen as a staple of the South Wedge neighborhood, Monika had to overcome a series of challenges to make her voice heard and get the shop off the ground. Starting in a different location, she poured money and care into muraling the walls, installing plumbing, and envisioning a juice bar for a space which was made completely useless by a number of outside unforeseeable misfortunes. Out of necessity, Monika moved from this location at the end of the lease and continued to keep Little Shop of Hoarders’ spirit alive by doing various vintage pop-ups across the city. Her perseverance paired with the support of other local business owners helped the idea stay afloat, as Monika reflects that “I feel like I went to a four-year school. I dealt a lot with the city, I learned a lot about permits and different laws about opening a business, and I met a lot of people through it. A lot of very successful business owners and all that they want to do is help, which has been very inspiring. You feel the ambition flow, which makes you think ‘I don’t want to stop.’ They want to see you succeed.” After securing her current spot on Gregory Street, Monika relied on the loving grunt work of her partner and close friends for tasks such as renovation and demolition. By working as a team from dawn until dusk, Little Shop of Hoarders was able to make its grand opening on February 7th, 2019, upholding the communal foundation which helped the store become a reality.