Sixteen Years on, Quality Mending Bids Farewell to Prince Street with a Blue Cap Salute
Vintage clothing shop, Quality Mending, is moving on from Prince Street with a Blue Cap salute to the neighborhood, as well as one last artwall project that they hope will inspire the community to get out the vote and, as their new project promotes, #BlueHatsforChange.
Like many long-standing small businesses around the city, Quality Mending owner Oliver Harkness was forced to close his shop due to the Covid-19 shutdown. Known for selling everything from Texas punk band rock-tees, to custom Levi’s biker jackets from the 1960s, to classic 1950s Americana, the vintage threads shop had become a beloved small business that exemplified the community’s passion for art, music, and culture.
But the neighborhood won’t just be losing a vintage clothing store. Harkness, along with some friends, curated an artwall on Elizabeth Street since the shop opened in 2004. The first artist was Rich Jacobs, and since then, has showcased the work of Arturo Vega, John Lurie of Lounge Lizards fame, Billy Childish, and other Downtown artists including Al Diaz (aka half of SAMO). Muralist IAMFINLEY has had a more permanent presence with her goddess of inspiration mural that has become somewhat of a landmark since 2016.
Now, as a final farewell, and a hat-tip to the neighborhood, Quality Mending is turning to the general public for inspiration.
Harkness teamed up with Maureen Sullivan of Red Art Projects for a “Make America_____ Again” participatory chalkboard mural as well as the production of 100 limited edition blue trucker Hats For Change. The idea was originally conceived as an in-store fundraiser project for the Swing Left organization, but was interrupted by the pandemic. So instead of scrapping the idea, Quality Mending extended it into the public sphere and are now giving away the hats for free to neighbors, artists, friends, and activists.
“100 Blue Hats for Change,” as it’s called, invites the public to fill in the blank blue space – both on the hat and on the wall – with what they wish to see America become again.
Quality Mending’s Instagram account has been chronicling the Blue Hat project with portraits of participants wearing the hats that they customized by completing the open-ended slogan. Followers may recognize some familiar faces of the neighborhoods, art, business, community, both past and present.
Since its installation, the empty blue space now reflects the uncensored vision of the general public. Hopeful, Necessary, Healthy,Sane, Loving, were just a few of the hundreds of words scrawled on the community-based art wall.
Harkness and Sullivan hope that it will help create a big blue wave for today’s primary election.
While Quality Mending will be moving on from Elizabeth Street, Harkness hopes to be back in the neighborhood with another storefront filled with fine vintage threads. Sometime in the near future
Here’s a short video the collaborators put together to promote the public project.