Leann DiPaola of Wild Cactus
Inspired by her college days spent thrifting out in the hot Arizona desert, Leann DiPaola decided to start Wild Cactus Vintage, an online vintage shop. Eventually, she found her way back to Cleveland to open a storefront stocked with both modern clothing and thrifted pieces on W 25th in Ohio City. Read our interview with Leann to learn more about how she opened her store while flying back and forth across the country and how her travels have inspired her taste.
Haley Mills: Where are you from?
Leann DiPaola: I am originally from Rocky River, born and raised. I went to Rocky River High School. I knew I wanted to go out west for college so I chose to attend Arizona State. I spent a couple of summers in Mount Hood, Oregon working at Timberline Lodge and snowboarding because I’ve always been really into snowboarding and you can snowboard on Mt. Hood all summer. That is where I met my boyfriend, and he and I moved to Lake Tahoe, California together after I graduated college. So, I’ve lived in California and Arizona, and now I’m in Portland, Oregon.
HM: How did you decide to open a store in Cleveland living outside of Ohio?
LD: I started my own vintage clothing company called Wild Cactus Vintage around 2015. I wanted to open my own store in the Lake Tahoe area because I was living there at the time and was pretty settled. It’s a pretty small touristy town and it was really expensive, and I just couldn't find any spaces. My uncle, who lives in Ohio City gave me a call and told me, “I found this space in Ohio City. I know you weren’t planning to move back to Cleveland but you should come check it out because I think it could be a really cool space for a boutique.” I hopped on a plane to Cleveland and checked it out and was like, “This feels right. I have to do it.” So I took the opportunity and moved back home. My entire family helped me out with the buildout, we worked really hard to get the store open in 2 months time. I opened on June 1, 2017, and we just turned two, it’s crazy!
HM: How did you get started with the Wild Cactus Vintage?
LD: I always loved going thrifting and had a knack for finding things. I could go into a thrift store and come out with a cart full of really cool pieces! When I was in college, I was thrifting all the time because I didn’t have a lot of money but was very into fashion. I felt like I was getting a lot of compliments on the items I found from the thrift store, so I figured I could turn it into a business. I did, and I decided to call it Wild Cactus Vintage inspired by my time living on the West Coast. I became very inspired by the clothing, lifestyle, and landscapes of the West Coast and I tried to embody that within the boutique.
HM: How do you find the vintage pieces you stock in the store? Do you find them in Cleveland or elsewhere?
LD: I find some of them in Cleveland! If I am there, I am thrifting when I have the time. I’ve had to scale back a little on the vintage because it's really, really time-consuming to go out and look for. Also, not everyone is into vintage, which I understand, and that's why I wanted to do a mixture when I opened up the store. I go and look for it in Cleveland, I go to Los Angeles to get some of it, and if I’m ever traveling I go thrifting. I try to fit it in whenever I can. I like it all to be handpicked and unique and I like the mix the modern pieces with the vintage pieces because that is how I style my outfits.
HM: How do you decide what else you stock in the store?
LD: I find brands that I like and reach out to them, I also pay close attention to current trends and try to stock pieces and brands that I like and hope my customers will like too! We also attend several trade shows a year to do the buying for the season. I like to stock a curated mix of every day fun basics, great denim, unique dresses, shoes and accessories along with some home items like candles and plants. I try to factor in comfortability, different body types and styles you can wear day-to-night, all while keeping everything affordable.
HM: You mentioned you just opened a new store in Portland. How did you decide to expand?
LD: My partner and I have lived in Portland on and off during my decade out west. We decided to move there from Lake Tahoe because it was a bigger city with more opportunities. We like Portland because the city itself is really fun but you can also escape the city and be in the mountains or at the ocean in just over an hour. We both enjoy snowboarding and surfing in our free time. I have been doing the back and forth thing from Cleveland to Portland for a while now and it’s gotten really hard on me! I decided I wanted to open a store in Portland but I didn’t know when. The shop space in Portland just came into my life a little bit like how the Cleveland store did. It’s this really pretty, modern-looking space, and was just too beautiful to pass up! I plan to keep the Cleveland store running, I have a really great team of women that take amazing care of the shop! Once I get more settled, I can keep going back and forth.
HM: Is there anything else you’d want readers to know about Wild Cactus?
LD: I think when most people think of boutique shopping, they assume the prices are too high so they can’t afford to shop there. I try to keep the price points affordable and the vibes good! We want every person that walks in to feel welcome into Wild Cactus and walk out feeling more beautiful and inspired!
HM: Where is your favorite spot to grab drinks with friends?
LD: Porco, I love a good tiki bar.
HM: Where is your favorite place to be in Cleveland?
LD: When I am in Cleveland, I spend most of my time at my store working but I really love going to Little Italy. If I were to spend more time in Cleveland I would definitely live in Little Italy. The Cleveland Museum of art is always a must too!
HM: What's your favorite spot in Little Italy?
LD: It’s too hard to choose, there’s so many and they are all delicious. We eat at all the restaurants there, coming from a big Italian family, living on both the East and West sides of Cleveland, it is a good gathering point to see everyone and eat some pasta.
HM: Where's your favorite spot to take visitors?
LD: Cedar Point. Growing up in Ohio, I feel like I went to Cedar Point all the time. It has this nostalgia and it’s always a fun time. I would also say The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is at the top of the list along with shopping at my favorite vintage shops, Helm Collective in Ohio City and Vintage Fashion CLE in Lakewood.