Voices of Jerusalem: Theatrical threads

Purim special: Loren Minsky speaks to Shira Friedman, the creative force behind Trumpeldor, a second-hand and vintage store.

Voices of Jerusalem: Theatrical threads  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Voices of Jerusalem: Theatrical threads
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"I have always had a creative streak," says Shira Friedman, the owner of Trumpeldor in Nachlaot, Jerusalem that stocks a wide range of quality second-hand, vintage and designer clothing. "When I was little I would play cops and robbers with my brothers, and they'd lose interest when I'd spend an hour dressing up," recalls Shira. "As a teenager I loved to dress up, play and perform and also appreciated old stuff and antiques."
Shira matriculated from Beis Yaakov High School in Johannesburg in 2004. Growing up she always walked to the beat of her own drum. She was never rebellious as such but lived in her own fantasy world, was not affected by social pressures and developed into an adult intent on following her dreams.
After school she came to Israel for the first time to study at a midrasha/ seminary. "At the time I saw Israel through the lenses of an institution; not as somewhere that I could live." Afterwards, she went to an art seminary Midreshet Emunah in Talpiot, which offered a program for art students from abroad. Shira then travelled to New York for two months where it was "freezing and miserable" and came back to Israel in the spring. "I felt freed from the snow, and with the budding yellow flowers, felt as if I'd come home."

L.O.V.E by Troupe Trumpeldor from Shira Kaplan on Vimeo.

Shira returned to South Africa, met with the Jewish Agency and requested to be put on the first aliyah flight (a month later). "Growing up, I felt very conscious and uncomfortable of being white and privileged and a sense of Jews not belonging in Africa. The Jewish community in South Africa is somewhat insular and doesn’t always realize the poverty and pain that surrounds them. A good friend is involved in social activism there but it felt more right for me to put the same energy into something similar in Israel." Shira grew up Zionistic and her family supported her decision.
Shira arrived during Operation Cast Lead and started an ulpan on a kibbutz in the south. "With rockets overhead, it was scary and a lot of people left," says Shira. "But I am very practical and realistic, and thought to myself that I can always get to a bomb shelter. Besides, it was my home at the time."
After eight months, Shira moved to Nachlaot in Jerusalem. She found the transition from kibbutz to city life challenging. "Suddenly there was no hederochel (dining room) and I had to organize food, as well as a place to live and a job," remarks Shira.
She began waitressing while looking for work. At the time the store Trumpeldor was already open but had a very different feel and was open just a few hours a week. Run by a special retired woman Nama Frankel Schabb, the store was more like a gemach and was used as a place to spend time with neighborhood friends.
"I walked by and thought that it looked like a cool place," recalls Shira. "I popped my head in and gave my details in case they ever needed help." That week Nama was sick and Shira found herself in the store cleaning up and decorating, and soon sourcing and buying clothes.
After a while, Nama could see that vintage was really Shira's thing and offered to sell Shira the business. Since it wasn't really thriving at the time, Shira could afford to buy it. To this day Shira speaks of Nama (who passed away last week) with fondness, respect and admiration.
To start, Shira waitressed at night to pay the bills and worked in the store in the day. "However, I found that dividing my time was too difficult," says Shira. "Eventually, I figured that I may not make the rent but I want to put all my energy into the store. When I did, it started thriving and became the center of my social life too. We have built a community here and have the best friends."
Shira partnered with a friend Judy at a later stage and they used to joke that the store was the Cheers of the neighborhood. "There are always people hanging out and dressing up here," says Shira. "We have an old record player, and friends stop by daily for a chat or counseling session. We've even had surprise birthday parties here."
Naturally, Shira met her husband Avi at Trumpeldor. "He came in wanting to know if I knew anything about antiques," smiles Shira. "But really someone had suggested the match and he wanted to meet me!" Avi inevitably asked Shira to marry him on the premises too, and they have now been married for nine months.
The store attracts a diverse clientele that includes the young and hip with a penchant for quality period-piece clothing, clowns, tourists, students and random people looking for evening wear. "People even come from far away such as Akko and Eilat."
Shira also offers vintage bridal rentals from home, which evolved when she was getting married and was searching for vintage wedding dresses online. At the time, she made the business decision to buy an amazing collection (some more than 100 years old), of which she chose the most befitting for herself. She also sells stunning vintage accessories to go with the dresses.
"Buying second-hand clothes means you suddenly have access to good quality European clothing, leathers, boutique and designer goods that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to otherwise afford," says Shira. "When you compare them to something cheap and overpriced that's made in China, you feel instantly just how good they feel and fit on your body – and they're usually one-of-a-kind and a fraction of the price." Most of the clothes Shira wears are second-hand, apart from undergarments she adds.
Shira is a multi-faceted woman with many passions and interests. Last year, she went to the film school Camera Obscura in Tel Aviv, and although she used to spend hours as a child fantasizing and coming up with stories, and considers film her first love, she has put her studies and dream on hold for now. "It's not practical to spread yourself too thin," says Shira, who has learnt this from experience. "One day soon I will move on to the next adventure."
"I love Jerusalem," says Shira. "When I studied in Tel Aviv, I saw how dumbfounded the others were by this, and how they avoided coming to the city. Perhaps my love has something to do with being religious, but I'm very happy here."
Long-term, Shira and Avi have plans to move out of the city to enjoy another of their loves – the outdoors. "We'd ideally like space to build, to plant and to live sustainably. Part of working in vintage is the principle and philosophy of recycling, re-using and avoiding over-consuming.We'd like to give our kids that kind of life."
"Occasionally we get customers weary of the previous owner's dormant energy or spirit in the clothes. But we ask them what they think about staying at hotels, often regarded as luxury, with all the constantly re-used linen and towels and with different people sleeping in the room every night. Many people with poor immigrant backgrounds regard first-hand products as a status symbol even if they're junk, but in general the young and more open-minded crowd gets it. All the clothes are of course washed, cleaned and repaired in our work room."
The store stands out from other stores for its regularly updated clothes (every few days) and the shopping experience. Shira hand-picks each item from markets, church sales and yard sales, especially when they go abroad to visit their families. "There's not so much in Israel as it's such a young nation with so many immigrants."The goods range in price from NIS 10 to around NIS 200.
Avi works at Trumpeldor with Shira and is involved in the day-to-day running and upkeep of the store. "We're constantly adapting the store to our needs so it's useful to have Avi around to paint and build shelves. Although Shira has the final say regarding clothing, she admits that Avi is heavily involved with the men's clothing. They also both spend a lot of time on social media promoting the store. She reflects how they're a good team and work well together.
"For a lot of our anglo friends, Trumpeldor is one of their favorite things about Jerusalem," shares Shira. "Many of our friends are interested in photography and fashion, and we often have spontaneous photo shoots featuring customers. It's fun and leaves people feeling great." Shira and Avi's friends Yossi and Jordana, who work at Trumpeldor, are very into fashion, photography and film and use their talents and skills to promote the store.
"Avi and I and our friends like dressing up," smiles Shira. "We're pranksters. We choose theatrical themes for Shabbat get-togethers and recently threw together the most amazing 50s-themed thanksgiving dinner at the last minute. We also dress up our dog up in a bow tie or scarf for Shabbat, and right now, we're planning our Egyptian royalty-theme for Pesach. We enjoy playing."
"The best part of my job? "It's really great living life the way that I want to and not having to go into work and be answerable to a boss. I love that we're constantly creating in the store and on the lookout for the next fun thing to do. In spring it's all about the dresses and in winter it's about the coats."
"Being my own boss can, however, be nerve-wracking and scary sometimes," says Shira. "Occasionally I wish I had the security of a paycheck." Shira also struggles with people who come in, don’t understand second-hand clothing and dispute the value of goods."They don’t appreciate how much work goes into each item and that the price is serious. I've learned from this to always be respectful of a price quoted to me."
At the moment,Trumpeldor is super-busy in preparation for Purim. The store stocks innovative ideas for Purim costumes – from 1950s house-wife outfits, to a set of 1970s pyjamas, to gypsy and rock 'n roll wear. "Half-price sale this Sunday!" declares Shira.
"It was once really hard for me to get my head round the fact that you only have one lifetime to be what want to be, and that you can be a jack of all trades but master of none. But I see now that you don’t have to accomplish all your dreams at once," says Shira. "What would I be in another lifetime? I'd travel endlessly and take in all that the world has to offer. Or, I'd be an actress." For now, nothing makes Shira happier than seeing her customers enjoying the clothes and having fun.
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