Corvallis vintage store Lint creating community through clothing

When he was an Oregon State University student, Charlie PeBenito frequented a Corvallis vintage store. He became friends with the owners, who taught him the basics of their business.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As students switched to online lessons, the store shut down, and the then-owners moved to the Portland area in search of more customers.

Several months later, as students returned to campus, PeBenito said it became clear that the vintage store’s absence had left a void.

PeBenito and two of his roommates decided to fill it, opening Lint at 202 SW 5th St. in Corvallis a year and a half ago.

“And it ended up paying off,” he said.

Lint, a small vintage store within a five-minute drive from the OSU campus, sells vintage clothing and items under $40. The store owners say keeping prices affordable for college students was key. They wanted their customers to be able to freely express their style even on a student budget.

“We provide the greater Corvallis community with vintage clothing, antiques and collectibles from the past,” said PeBenito.

PeBenito, a citizen of the Osage Nation, said he grew up with a strong sense of community that helps him connect with customers.

On a Tuesday morning in July as PeBenito prepared to open the shop for the day, regular customer Mary Walsh walked by wearing a teal ankle-length vintage dress. “I spend a lot of money here,” Walsh said with a chuckle.

“You keep us thriving,” PeBenito replied.

Lint has many regulars like Walsh. PeBenito says high school students will stop by on their college visits, and he is always excited when they return to do some shopping in the fall.

As a teenager, PeBenito loved all things vintage.

That evolved into an online vintage clothing business, which helped bring in extra cash during college.

After graduating from Oregon State in December of 2019, in the midst of the pandemic, online shopping at an all-time high and his job hunt at a standstill, PeBenito decided to take a leap and turn his online business into a physical store with his two roommates-turned-business partners.

PeBenito and Jake Nielson are the store operators and co-owners, while Chanti Mañon, who is also an artist, is the social media director.

Two weeks before the grand opening, they had yet to finalize a name for the store. When someone suggested “Lint” as a joke, PeBenito loved it and said they should use it for real.

Inside the shop, shoppers will find that clothing is organized by color, not gender. The idea, PeBenito said, is to give customers the chance to express their style freely without the societal restraints of traditional gender roles.

“If I can mix stuff together, you can eventually, over time, stop trying to distinguish whether it’s catered for a certain gender,” PeBenito said. “Realistically, you can wear whatever you want.”

The team sources items from vendors around Oregon and also accepts consignments from customers.

“A lot of this stuff has just been like, if we didn’t grab it or if we didn’t buy it or if someone didn’t bring it in, it’d be in a landfill right now,” he said.

PeBenito said he and his partners hope to soon hire staff and be able to run the business remotely. But the three are committed to Corvallis.

“I feel like if we kept it in this really small space, in this really small town, we could still provide the same community-oriented feeling,” PeBenito said.

— c

This story was produced by student reporters as part of the High School Journalism Institute, an annual collaboration among The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon State University and other Oregon media organizations. For more information or to support the program, go to oregonlive.com/hsji.

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