Shop Local Gift Guide: The Blue Jean Buyer Brings Real Vintage, Customized Denim to Scottsdale
Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 14:11
The Blue Jean Buyer
1810 N. Scottsdale Road, Tempe, 480.947.8245
Open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Through 18 years in the Valley, Tempe's Blue Jean Buyer has stuck to its founding mission: bringing the public pieces of wearable American history by offering a selection of vintage clothing that stem back to the 1950s.
"That's what keeps me in the business," said Steve Vizzerra, owner of the shop. "Trying to find the old stuff."
In addition to denim, of course, The Blue Jean Buyer carries authentic Indian jewelry, aged cowboy boots, belt buckles and leather jackets.
"We have unique pieces to accommodate the masses," he said.
Nevertheless, the focus of Vizzerra's business continues to be the iconic garment that started it all: Levi's jeans.
The story behind the Blue Jean Buyer goes all the way back to the late ‘80s, when Vizzera was fresh out of high school, traveling Europe and carrying nothing but a backpack full of 501 Levi's jeans.
Vizzerra's friend, "a trust fund kid," found that American Levis were considered a luxury item overseas by Europeans looking for a taste of "classic Americana." Naturally, Vizzerra flew across the Atlantic and they started selling used Levi's that they would buy in vacant parking lots for $10 for $200 a piece on the streets.
"[Levi's] date back the early 1800s," Vizzerra said, explaining the item's popularity. "It's a piece of early American history."
By 1993, Vizzerra had a successful jean exporting business, with locations in Denmark and Sweden and contacts in Japan. Once jean production was outsourced overseas, the demand for exports died out and Vizzerra decided to focus on the retail aspect of his business.
Today, he is known as the "Jean Doctor of Arizona." Vizzerra and company are able to personalize denim for aficionados looking to make their jeans special.
Such talents have drawn a celebrity clientele to the unassuming shop. Vizzerra names music acts ZZ Top and Morrissey, as well as actors Luke Perry and Rebecca Gayheart, as just a few of his famous customers.
"They want something unique and original," he said. "If they're performing, they don't want to see someone else wearing the same shirt or pair of jeans."
Valley residents don't have to be stars to purchase the one-of-a-kind pieces Blue Jean Buyer offers.
"We do a lot of alterations and distressing," he said. "We can fix patches and crotch holes."
While offering altering services and vintage wear, the Blue Jean Buyer also offers other unique items perfect for those that want to purchase gifts that won't be found at any generic outlet store.
Vizzerra considers the store's selection of pawned Indian jewelry as such a gift. The selection includes a variety of rings, bracelets and cuffs from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s that now serve as keepsakes. The jewelry is adorned with splashes of coral and turquoise, and averages from $40 to $60 for the smaller pieces and up to $400 for heavier ones.
The Blue Jean Buyer also boasts an extensive collection of old cowboy boots, in a variety of colors and styles. They retail from $45 to $150, depending on the age and quality of the boot.
"Everyone in Arizona needs a boot in their wardrobe," Vizzerra said.