Vintage clothing is hot right now, and “Columbia’s Best-Kept Secret” is on fire for it. Leo’s Old Clothes, located in Columbia since 1972, was originally known for its selection of jeans. It now provides our college town with a wealth of vintage clothing, accessories, Army surplus and Halloween costumes.
Leo’s is hidden in plain sight on 9th Street north of Broadway, located just before the Blue Note and above Dryer’s Shoes. To begin your old clothes adventure, look for the glass door (the one that says “Leo’s” on it), open said door, and go up the stairs. Yes, you’re allowed to go upstairs. Don’t be timid. Observe the quirky sketches on the white walls, and contemplate how much you are dying to have those yellow, glittery stairs in your house.
Take a deep breath as you reach the top of the stairs. Absorb your surroundings and the seemingly endless amounts of really cool clothes. Comb through the racks of silk robes, rental costumes, men’s vests, faux fur jackets, marching band jackets, etc. The list of these crazy finds goes on and on.
Leo’s location next to the Blue Note periodically draws bands to the store. Wilco came to the store recently. Lemmy from Motorhead once stopped in and spent a few hours talking to April Jenkins, co-owner of Leo’s, but she didn’t know who he was until another customer stopped in and recognized him.
Jenkins has been with the store off and on since 2000, working as store operator and as a buyer and seller of the vintage clothing. In her lifetime, she has lived and worked all over the U.S., from working with a hair colorist in New York to working in New Mexico with a jewelry company and selling cars. But retail is her passion.
Jenkins buys her clothes “everywhere and anywhere,” which leads to some interesting finds. She and her co-owner, Jack, find so many unique things that it “all becomes a blur.” Jack found a taxidermy woodpecker during one of his trips, and it is proudly displayed among the men’s clothing.
If you keep an eye out, other fun items can be spotted, such as a Korn tapestry, a musical tie and a lamp made of shells. As Jenkins says, “I don’t really think there’s a normal day here.”
Whether you’re renting a cool costume, or just looking for a new outfit, Leo’s is the unique place to find something that you, and only you, will be wearing to class.