MEET YOUR MERCHANT: Leslie Dilloway’s love of everything vintage has turned her Nevada City store into a visual feast
To step into Tiger Alley in Nevada City is to know that Leslie Dilloway has a gift.
At the vintage clothing and vinyl store on Broad Street, Dilloway is clearly more than a shop owner. She is a curator, a master collector and a true artist.
The recently remodeled historic building easily beckons passersby inward with its splash of bold stripey colors on the walls and piano, the racks of vintage Hawaiian shirts, the mustard velveteen couch, the psychedelic posters and colored plastic phones of the Sixties and Seventies.
Dig deeper and you’ll find rich, themed color-coordinated apparel collections, which include vintage dresses, hats, pants, shoes, boots, handbags and much more. Pieces are primarily 25 years or older and made in the United States. Items must be timeless and well-made, stressed Dilloway.
But right under the The Magic 8-Ball and over by the multi-colored neon head is the perfect complement to Dilloway’s treasures — a rapidly growing collection of vintage and contemporary vinyl albums, carefully researched by Dilloway’s business partner, Sean Dooley, who is also the music director at KVMR.
Albums at Tiger Alley range from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Cream, and Jane Fonda’s Workout Record to Freddie Hubbard, the Japanese Yellow Magic Orchestra and the melodic musings of Joanna Newsom.
A 2008 graduate of Bear River High School, Dilloway grew up in Grass Valley, but early on she was attracted to life in downtown Nevada City.
“I liked to hang out at Cafe Mekka — it was cozy and eclectic,” she said. “Nevada City intrigued me — it was where you could find the travelers, artists and musicians.”
Eager to hone her skills and pursue her passion in creative clothing design, Dilloway moved to San Francisco after high school, where she attended the Academy of Art and majored in menswear tailoring, with a minor in costume design. As a result, her knack for the eco-friendly practice of up-cycling vintage finds is done with remarkable skill and unique flair.
Her impressive collections are also due in part to employees and friends Paige Anderson, a buyer and musician, and Cynthia Levesque, buyer and jewelry designer. Levesque owned the business “Neva Co.” in the same location prior to selling it to Dilloway in 2017. The trio has been known to travel together to their “secret sources” for new inventory, including a recent trip to Hawaii in search of vintage shirts.
The store’s name “Tiger Alley” was a phrase coined during the Gold Rush era in reference to the nearby Nevada City enclave where miners once played a popular gambling game known as “Bucking the Tiger.”
Dilloway’s talents have caught the eye of regional theater companies. Over the years, she’s been asked to costume shows for the likes of Sierra Stages, the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS) and others, a side job she enjoys.
Despite stints in San Francisco and Brooklyn, N.Y., Dilloway says that Nevada City is a worthy competitor when it comes to creative energy. She and many of her peers say that exorbitant urban housing costs have tended to push artists and musicians back into smaller towns, a phenomenon that bodes well for the foothills.
The most rewarding part about launching a business has been building community, said Dilloway, who added that loyal customers even offer to take her dog, “Posey” — a fixture at the store — on regular walks during business hours.
“Tiger Alley would not exist without the infinite support of my partner Sean and our incredible families,” said Dilloway. “Thank you, Nevada County — you’re true-blue.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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