Photo by Elisa Huang / North by Northwestern

Vintage clothing store Heyday Evanston has a personality of its own: An array of neon signs and cowboy posters adorn the walls while bright-colored retro furniture sits invitingly throughout the store. According to owner Shayne Kelly, it’s a “blend of pool hall, bowling alley and dirty pub aesthetics.”

What stood out the most was the careful curation of one-of-a-kind clothing items and accessories for sale – especially the rack full of vintage Northwestern merchandise nestled in the corner.

Photo by Elisa Huang / North by Northwestern

Located at 522 Davis Street, Heyday by Prison City Vintage has been turning heads since opening its doors on March 27. This vintage collective has quickly become a go-to destination for Evanston and Northwestern’s fashion-forward and environmentally-conscious consumers.

Kelly – a seasoned collector – is behind the magic, bringing his expertise and love for all things vintage to make this eclectic mix of treasures. Unlike many other vintage stores, he and his team don’t select pieces solely for the resale value.

"The most important thing that people need to know about us is, we really pick this stuff because we really like it,” Kelly said. “We don't care about monetary value or anything like that. It matters that you enjoy the piece that you're gonna buy from us."

Kelly’s journey into the world of vintage collecting began in college when he started frequenting flea markets and thrift stores in search of CDs and video games. But his interest soon shifted to clothing and accessories.

"It wasn't until I got into college I got into clothes and shoes and all sorts of stuff. It was very much like a growing up thing, like, ‘Man, I dress awful, maybe I should get some better clothes,’" he said.

This newfound passion led him to open his first vintage store, Prison City Vintage, in Joliet, Illinois. The success of that flagship location, along with a growing customer base from the Evanston area, inspired him to expand with Heyday.

Unlike Joliet, Evanston residents are more city-aligned and receptive to classic vintage, Kelly said, so the items in the store reflect their taste.

Still, each Heyday curator has their own expertise and style that inspires their picks. From garage and estate sales to thrift stores and rag houses, Employees go the extra mile to find pieces.

"We go a little bit everywhere – like the nastiest, grodiest places," Kelly said.

More than the pieces, the store's welcoming atmosphere quickly made it a favorite among locals. Kelly recounted a heartwarming experience when a customer purchased the same Grateful Dead shirt that she had as a teenager and got rid of in the 90s. It served as a memento of her relationship with her parents, who she saw the band with over 50 times.

"We love returning pieces to where it needs to go. If it's meant to be, it will go to the right home that it needs to,” Kelly said. “That's the coolest thing – finding the one piece that means something to everybody.”

What's next for him? Hopefully, bringing Illinois Vintage Fest – a large-scale vintage event he organized with over 150 vendors – to Evanston. But right now, Kelly simply takes pride in his accomplishments thus far.

"I think the most important thing is, we did it, you know what I mean?” he said. “It's hard to have two stores at the same time, especially when they're an hour and thirty minutes apart from each other, so it's just rewarding that we can be here.”

The opening of Heyday is emblematic of the growing popularity of thrifting and sustainable fashion. But it is Kelly's vision, dedication and ability to create a welcoming space for vintage lovers that sets Heyday apart.