Desert Vintage

December 6, 2012 |

Almost 40 years after Desert Vintage was opened by Kathleen Lauth, the 4th Avenue vintage store is enjoying a rebirth under new ownership. The new owners are the visionary couple Salima Boufelfel and Roberto Cowan. The tradition of the store is being carried forward with a fresh global appeal.

Salima Boufelfel was born and raised in Tucson. She traveled with her parents when she was young through Africa and France. Her parents settled in Tucson when she was six. Her father is North African and a professor of physics. Her mother is local artist Linda Cato. Salima studied history and French at the University of Arizona. Salima’s passion was born in high school when she started her own vintage clothing collection.

Roberto Cowan was born and raised in Tucson as well. His father is from Bisbee and his mother is from Sonora, Mexico. He lived in a California suburb during his youth outside of Hollywood for a short time. Roberto’s mother was an avid shopper and from an early age he accompanied her many shopping excursions. Roberto attributes these early childhood memories as experiences that sparked his interest in fashion. Roberto took business and fashion design courses at Pima College where he earned a  liberal arts degree.

Salima and Roberto met in 2009 while they were working at Buffalo Exchange. There was an immediate connection between them; one might say it was kismet. They bonded over vintage items with historical relevance and eccentric quality pieces. Both became buyers at Buffalo and Salima even gained managerial experience.  They were mastering their eye for style and fashion and learning the business of recycled clothing.

This year Salima and Roberto packed their bags and headed to Paris for an adventure.  They attended Paris Fashion Week with the crème de la crème of fashion.  Salima was exposed to an eclectic group of people and fashion while working for Mamie Rose, a vintage emporium.  In this creative environment, Salima and Roberto gleaned knowledge from many sources, especially the buyers. The vision to start a store transpired in this milieu. Their concept was to include vintage clothing, modern brands, various art forms, and incorporate art installations. Their idea was to have a global-minded approach. Initially they had considered opening a store in Paris. Due to complications with visas the time to start a store in Paris did not seem right.

Salima and Roberto came back to America with the intent of renewing their visas and returning to the famous “City of Lights”. It seems destiny had another plan for Salima and Roberto. On a serendipitous day while shopping at Desert Vintage, they were informed by the owner, Kathleen Lauth, that she was retiring. Kathleen inquired if they would be interested in purchasing the business. Initially they were excited to have the opportunity, but soon they had second thoughts. They were concerned about their ability to continue in the tradition that had been set by Kathleen. As they contemplated their choice and weighed the odds they began to feel this was a grand opportunity that had been put before them. They put forth an offer and it was accepted in July 2012. They immediately began renovations. The grand opening was on August 4th, 2012.

“We’re shoppers”, Salima quipped,  “We love Tucson.  There are great people here. Tucson has a unique twist on things and a unique inventory to pull from.”

We are lucky to have these globe-trotting, trendsetting collectors with their own style and panache in the Ole Pueblo.

Desert Vintage will also be expanding to an online store which will be up and running within the new year.

Desert Vintage is located at 636 N. 4th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85705 620-1570.

Category: Business, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, FASHION, Shopping