Rediscoveries in Butte is a window to the past
BY DAVID REESE/MONTANA LIVING
Walking into Resdiscoveries in uptown Butte is a bit like walking back in time.
Filled with vintage clothing, antiques, dolls and jewelry, Rediscoveries gives you ample opportunity to sample what it was like to live in what we now call “back in the day.”
Hanna Reese models a hat at Rediscoveries in Butte, Montana. (Laira Fonner photo for Montana Living)
To touch a vintage 1930s dress is to feel the quality that went into the sewing back then. It also takes you back in time to when Butte was full of big weddings, big funerals, and men’s and women’s social groups. “It was a big social scene here,” Rediscoveries owner Brian Mogren said. “Through the 1950s Butte was like the Las Vegas of Montana.”
In Butte, “back in the day” likely meant those years when you worked at one of the town’s prosperous companies, such as the Montana Power Company or the Anaconda Mining Company.
Both companies employed wealthy executives whose families wore the best clothing, and whose homes had the best accoutrements. Many of those items have found their way into Rediscoveries in the 20 years since Mogren founded the business. He has sold clothing from as far back as the 1830s that came from Fort Benton, Montana. “Once in a blue moon I still get stuff like that,” Mogren said.
Dolls line a shelf at Rediscoveries in Butte, Montana. (Photo by Laira Fonner for Montana Living)
The majority of clothing that appears in his store now is from the early to mid-1900s, and Mogren used to buy directly from women who were young in Butte in the early 1900s.
“I’ve been in Butte for so long, I know the history and the quality that is here,” Mogren said. “Nothing surprises me when it comes in.”
Even the working-class people of Butte’s heyday bought the best they could afford, and these items still appear in Rediscoveries after an estate sale. In fact, Mogren said he gets all of his merchandise right from Butte.
Rediscoveries owner Brian Mogren. (Photo by Laira Fonner/for Montana Living)
Mogren's merchandise has even had its share of Hollywood fame. His clothing appeared in the movie “Titanic,” as well as many other Hollywood and European films. It was the location where Butte’s own Evel Knievel filmed a movie in 1969 with George Hamilton. Most recently the building on Park Street was a setting for Wim Wender’s 2005 movie “Don’t Come Knocking” with Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange. He still gets Europeans walking into his store who recognize his storefront from the poster of that movie.
The building where Rediscoveries is housed dates over 100 years. It had once been the Butte Cash Grocery, then was Phil Judds Sporting Goods for many years in the later 1900s. His main line of merchandise is vintage clothing, though be began collecting glassware when he was just 12, growing up in nearby Anaconda.
Mogren eschews technology — you won’t find a web site for Rediscoveries, or a way to peruse the store’s items online; it’s strictly a walk-in business — which is good for downtown Butte. “Butte is being appreciated for the jewel that it is,” Mogren said.
Perhaps his distaste for technology comes because he is surrounded by clothing and merchandise that was made at least 50 years ago. “We’ve become such a throwaway society,” he said. “There were times when you had your worn shoes re-soled and bought items of quality. You bought for value, more than quantity.”
Vintage day-wear dresses at Rediscoveries cost about $45, while evening wear goes for more. There’s a wide selection of vintage textiles and fabrics, quilts, dolls, rhinestone jewelry and decorative objects. Rediscoveries also rents costumes.
The store’s doll collection dates mainly from the early 1900s through the 1960s, though the store has had dolls from as far back as the 1830s. Nostalgic dolls and Shirley Temple dolls have always been popular, especially with people of that generation. “It’s like baseball cards or comic books. They’re trying to buy back their childhood memories,” Mogren said.
Mogren knows it’s no easy thing to run a business, let alone start one. But in Butte, especially the historic uptown district, the economy is doing just fine, he said. “There are a lot of places in worse shape than Butte, Montana,” he said.
“And Butte people are used to living within their means. My business in fine.”
Once people come across this historic section of Montana in uptown Butte, they get a glimpse of Montana as it once was. Walking into Rediscoveries takes you even further. When Mogren opens his store each day, he sometimes wonders what part of Butte he’ll get to see.
He’s had the best there is, like French designer dresses and jewelry from Tiffany’s. “For me,” he said, “the thrill of my business is finding out what I’m going to come across next.”
Address: Rediscoveries vintage store, 83 E Park St, Butte, MT 59701