Flashlight Alley: The Art Life Chose Them

Alice and Alicia Menninga at Flashlight Alley

Alice and Alicia Menninga at Flashlight Alley

Eastown haunt strives to be more than a typical vintage store

You’re trudging down Wealthy Street when suddenly you hear a soft instrumental piano piece as you pass Yesterdog. Well, that can’t be right. You double back and realize it’s coming from the store next door. The sign, which is hand painted in fun colors, welcomes you to Flashlight Alley. You step inside as the incense hits you, along with the fact that it’s just another vintage shop. Except that it’s not. The owners are laughing by the front desk. They eagerly say ‘hello’ and you notice that the older of the two has an interesting accent.

Meet Alice and Alicia Menninga. A mother-daughter duo that has brightened up Eastown with comic books, vinyl records, local art and repurposed furniture they have collected over the years. The store opened back in April of this year and, so far, has been met with positive reviews.

The egg shakers and magnets are Alicia’s doing, while the wooden signs with inspirational quotes are painted by her mom. Incidentally, the word ‘flashlight’ was brought to the store’s name because they hoped to bring light to the community and “flash” was Alicia’s dad’s nickname in college (his fashion sense was eccentric). Alice is from the Netherlands, where her parents were dairy farmers.

They later moved to California and, at 18, Alice chose to study at Calvin College. She has been a resident for 40 years. Her daughter Alicia went to an alternative school her last year of high school. She claimed they supported her writing and art and she was asked back for career day to play the piano. Alicia currently has three albums out and her fourth is in the works.

While the shop does have plenty to offer, why choose to invest in memorabilia? Alicia undoubtedly responds with: “There is a story behind every piece. Looking through Flashlight’s relics is like stepping into a museum.” They feel kids aren’t fully able to express themselves and believe the store has something for people of all ages.

Plus, it’s exciting to see individuals are not afraid to wear bizarre pieces. Today, there is no one definitive trend and the owners are certain that their assortment of blazers, hats and statement jewelry is bringing back the diversity that Eastown folk used to have when they first moved in.

When asked if they will eventually relocate to a bigger space, Alicia stated: “This was the porridge that Goldilocks chose. It’s just right.” When the basement is finished, it will double as a studio for Alicia, giving her more time to work on her art and add to the collection upstairs.

The Menningas enjoy witnessing shoppers get excited when an article allows them to reminisce.

“You don’t even have to get in the TARDIS!” Alicia said, embracing her inner-nerd with the clutch Dr. Who reference.–Giovana Barreto

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