Partners Ian O’Neill and Yana Pietras of Moth Oddities with their 1986 Jeep Grand, Eleanor.
All photos courtesy Moth Oddities
For five weeks, the changing continental U.S. landscape flashed by the passenger window of Yana Pietras and Ian O’Neill’s 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Eleanor. Across more than 4,800 miles, she got them across 16 states, through beautiful and desolate landscapes in the Dakotas, sunsets in Big Sur, the woods of Yosemite, along the iconic Route 66, and more in a road trip dubbed Vintage Adventure II. In what sounds like a momentous road trip for many really did fly by with the miles for Pietras and O’Neill. Then again, what is now Vintage Adventure I was four months around the perimeter of the United States.
The couple, who met while studying graphic design at the University of Minnesota, began their online vintage retail Moth Oddities in 2014. Their website is lean and highly curated—the maddening thing about it is because it’s vintage, there’s only one of an item—but with an influx of what is anywhere between 500 and 800 vintage finds from their journey out west, you can expect a flood of Americana, fall items, and American camp (as in “deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style,” as Google says, not the tent kind). Before that happens, though, they’re hosting a coming back party of sorts on Sept. 14 with as much of their finds as can fit in the Duke Albert store.
Items are $15 a piece unless priced otherwise, another homage to the accessibility of some of the flea markets they experienced. Both Pietras and O’Neill would classify Moth Oddities as their full-time venture, but they take on freelance jobs as needed, too. Still, that means that if they want to go on a weeks-long road trip to the Rose Bowl flea market, they can do that.
“We talk a lot about travel and style and how those two are connected,” Pietras says. “They definitely overlap, especially in the world we’re in, where you can drive and hop into flea markets and thrift stores picking up and collecting really cool vintage pieces, and then in the next town, using them in a beautiful photo shoot. It’s cyclical.”
The famous monthly flea market was always on their bucket lists, but to be able to go and visit it was something else. Hearing Pietras and O’Neill talk about it, you get swept away in their excitement for it as they recount the immensity of the more than 2,500 vendor booths. (When they were there, they switched off who manned their booth so the other could go exploring.)
Because of some car troubles, they almost didn’t get there, but persistence beat complacency. “We were waking up at like 3 in the morning and doing crazy drives to get there, so when we were there, it was like an out-of-body experience; it was really cool. Listen to us, talking about a flea market like it was this…” Pietras trails off and laughs, seeming to grasp for an apt comparison like a once-in-a-lifetime concert or a solar eclipse. “It was really awesome, though.”
Some of the many vintage pieces Moth Oddities brought back from their road trip. Expect Americana, American-camp, decades, and fall fashion (along with some summer residuals) at their pop-up Sept. 14.
Besides the Rose Bowl flea market, other flea markets, thrift stores, and boutiques along the way garnered more treasures, like what O’Neill calls “the holy grail”—1970s Jack Purcell canvas converse—or the “so old and funny, so obnoxious” New Kids on the Block band shirt that made Pietras smile. After each stop, Eleanor’s trunk got more and more full, and by the end of the trip, they couldn’t see out the rearview mirror and looking at the back was like looking at a solid brick wall of clothes.
“There’s such culturally rich places throughout the entire country that are so incredible and so carried and different,” O’Neill says. “It’s really amazing to get to someplace like the southwest and embrace the patterns and fabrics and textiles there, especially in fashion and find pieces there that embody what the vibe is and bring that somewhere else and show people what we found and sort of take them along the trip with us.”
At the beginning of this road trip we both felt pretty overwhelmed with stress & anxiety. Building a business together as a couple has its challenges and it wears on our relationship from time to time. So far, even after the bad days, we always agree that it’s worth it. The non-stop long work hours, missing out on social gatherings, canceling plans, money troubles, and disagreements about all of the above, gets tiring. We started this road trip with a lot of tension, especially about how to make this whole adventure appear PERFECT, even when it wasn’t. The other day, we planned to head south from Richland Center, WI to Chicago, IL, but Eleanor had other plans. She didn’t start for about 30 mins, we put her in neutral & pushed for a little bit and then finally got her started enough to putter to an auto shop in the small town. We spent the whole day moseying around, from coffee shop to thrift store, back to the mechanic and then to the bar. Our plans completely diverted from what we expected, but for some reason it was the first day of many where we felt a huge weight off our shoulders. Every person we came in contact with was extremely generous and welcoming. They went out of their way to make sure we were okay. The mechanic was very helpful & patient, answering all of our questions in such a down-to-earth way. The lady who ran the thrift store noticed we were looking for vintage and let us in back where she stored boxes FULL of funky old clothes. Our waitress at the bar was light-hearted & friendly, she gave us dessert & a drink on the house. Our Airbnb host picked us up from the middle of town to bring us back to the Pine Cone yurt for an additional night. Having car troubles is something that would have normally sent us into a panic but the people of Richland Center made us feel at ease. Looking back, we’re not disappointed our plans got derailed. We’re grateful to have met so many wonderful people in this little town we would have normally jumped over. When we took these photos of the Pine Cone @airbnb we had no idea what would happen with Eleanor or the projected plan for the road trip… but that’s what these adventures are all about #mothtravels
Check out Vintage Adventure II on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Duke Albert and meet the vintage wanderers themselves. They may even have some photos of their trip to show you for a little taste of their cross-country trip.